Times have changed. Or perhaps the Little Overachievers' school just has different priorities. Either way, transforming shoe boxes into collection boxes for valentines is not in the lesson plan. Instead, it's a paper bag decorated with stickers. Somehow, it's just not quite the same. Multiple food allergies (for all of us!) make the box of chocolates a no go. But the cookies... The cookies, I can do!
Overachiever #1 is limited to his medical formula, granulated white sugar, artificial color and artificial flavors. A few years ago, I would have told you there is nothing remotely cookie-like to be created with those ingredients. Today, however, I know better. Always the procrastinator, writing out valentines was saved for last night. So this morning I dropped the Little Overachievers at school and then set out to create memorable "just sugar" cookies in time for the afternoon parties.
Four pounds of granulated sugar, a surprisingly small amount of water, and lots of stirring yields a mixture that feels about like wet sand.
A packed handful of the mixture can be rolled out like cookie dough.
Cookie cutters work just as well for packed sugar as they do for cookie dough. Sugar doesn't hold together quite the same, so a spatula is required to transfer each cut out. (Don't ask me how long it took me to figure that out!) You can also use candy molds or silicone ice cube trays to make "just sugar" candies.
A couple of hours in the dehydrator is enough "cooking" to transform the wet sugar into a solid cookie or bite-sized candy. Store bought powdered sugar is a no-go in our house due to the inclusion of corn starch to prevent clumping. So I use a coffee grinder to pulverize granulated sugar. The resulting powder can be mixed with artificial color and a few drops of water to create a glaze that is easily spread with a small rubber spatula. Once the glaze has dried, an artificially colored decorating pen can be used for writing messages.
The end result is not just a cookie. It is a smile that preempts tears. It is a single "Yes, please!" in a world of "No thank you - I'm allergics." Most importantly, it is the start of a new family tradition and, I hope, a memory that the Little Overachievers will recall with fondness when they are adults thinking back on what "makes" Valentine's Day for them.