03 May 2024

Family, Friends and Fireflies: KidLit Confections Morir Soñando Cookies

2 images, side-by-side: On the left is the cover of GHOST SQUAD by Claribel Ortega, and on the right is a close-up photo of a group of orange cookies with vanilla buttercream icing and a drizzle of orange glaze
(The recipe, including a link to the index of printable PDF files, can be found at the bottom of this post.)

This blog post was originally shared on 24 June 2020-- I have updated it slightly to make this recipe an official part of my #KidLitConfections series!

In last week's #KidLitChat on bluesky.social.com, the conversation was all about staying organized and keeping current. As always, when the topic of organization comes up, I start feeling guilty about all of the ways I'm NOT organized in a neurotypical kind of way. They** say it takes 21 days to form a habit, but my neurospicy brain doesn't work that way. As soon as I form a "habit" (when I've been doing something regularly enough that it becomes a part of my routine that I don't have to think about), I forget that it's a thing and I have to start all over again. Even remembering to feed myself regularly isn't a given (as those of you who participate in #KidLitChat may have already noticed)! So I tend to get down on myself when I realize it's been a while since I posted. And I periodically consider deleting the blog part of my website to eliminate the stress of trying to remember to post regularly.

But I never do, because I love sharing bits of myself with you in this informal story form. Especially when I get to talk about KidLit, connections, and recipes.

Yes, I have an "about me" page on my website. But to really know about me, you have to know about my brain tumor. And the way I get unbelievably excited about little things. And my absolute love of books, with all the ways they help me make sense of my world. And the way I can make a surprisingly delicious cookie out of literally everything.* 

And the way my friends and family are my entire world.

So this post has a little bit of all of the things that make me love being here.

A book:

Cover of GHOST SQUAD by Claribel Ortega

If you haven't yet read GHOST SQUAD by Claribel Ortega, you should really rectify this situation immediately. It's amazing!

Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd's witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely's firefly spirits before it's too late. 

This is a REALLY fun book with lots of laugh-out-loud moments, two best friends who are the absolute definition of "friendship goals," and an adorable cat that probably everyone who reads it wants to adopt in real life. But more than that, it's a book about family, both biological and the family we find along the way. And it's about those connections that last forever. Even beyond the grave. 

Lucely's fireflies felt so familiar to me in so many ways. I don't often get a chance to see and chat with my deceased ancestors, but I know they are there for me, lifting and helping me when I need their strength. Like when my Grandpa came to sit with me through my radiation treatments. And whether you believe in those beyond-the-grave connections or not, I think we can all agree that our families shape who we are and how we see the world. I'm so glad that I got to be a part of Lucely's world for a little while!

A connection (or two):

Claribel Ortega is one of the sweetest, fiercest human beings I have ever met. She is quite vocal in her support of her friends. She's not shy about standing up for what's right, even when I know it's really difficult for her to do sometimes. And she's really good at reminding me that I'm worthwhile. I count myself lucky that I got to know her before she was famous! (She reminds me a lot of Syd, Lucely's amazingly fierce, sweet, and funny best friend in GHOST SQUAD.)

Side note: Since I originally wrote this post nearly 4 years ago, Clairbel has written several other books, and you should go check out her entire collection!--The third book in her Witchlings series comes out in October of 2024!

I fell in love with the GHOST SQUAD story when she mentioned it just briefly way back when we first met all those years ago. (I'm not even sure if she had started writing it yet, or if she was just still playing with the idea.) So of course I had to get a copy as soon as it was available. I dove into the story full of expectations. Which character would I love the most? Would I fall in love with Chunk, as so many of the lucky folks who got to read advance copies did? Would I identify with Lucely? Or Syd? (For the record, Tia Milagros is my favorite!) I didn't expect my favorite part of the book to happen in the first chapter. But when Lucely sat down to a breakfast that included pitchers of fresh juice and morir soñando, I literally squealed with delight!

I didn't grow up with the amazingness that is morir soñando on my breakfast table. I didn't know what it was until a few years ago, when Hermana Ward, one of the missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who was in the Maryland Baltimore Mission back in 2016/17 (and another one of my favorite humans) gave me a cookie challenge: "There's an amazing Dominican drink called morir soñando that literally translates as 'to die dreaming.' Can you make that drink in cookie form?"

Well, first I had to get to know the drink. And oh my goodness! Yum!! If you haven't had this on your tastebuds, you absolutely need to fix that situation now. 

Go ahead. 

I'll wait. 

See what I mean? It's fantabulous, isn't it???

So I knew the cookies representing the drink had to be flippin' phenomenal, or they would never live up to the hype. (And if you would like to access the printable PDF with this recipe, here is your reminder that the link is at the bottom of this post, and the password you'll need to access the PDF from the #KidLitConfections Recipe Index page is: WeNeedDiverseBooks)

Most of the recipes I create are all about simplicity. For this one, I pulled out all the stops. It's a bit more complex, and definitely a special-occasion treat, but literally every single person who has ever tried these cookies has fallen in love with them. (One of my friends even asked if she could lick the plate when they were all eaten!) -- And all these years later, in 2024, these are still one of the best cookies I have ever made.

So... in honor of two of my favorite humans, and one of my favorite Middle Grade books, I present to you...

A recipe:

Morir Soñando Cookies

Morir Soñando Cookies: close-up photo of a group of orange cookies with vanilla buttercream icing and a drizzle of orange glaze

Orange Cookie 

1 c. butter

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

¾ c. thawed orange juice concentrate

2 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. orange extract (opt.)

¼ c. cornstarch

4 c. Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 GF flour

Cream butter and sugar together. 

Add eggs, orange juice, soda, salt, cornstarch, and orange extract, as desired. 

Beat until light and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes on high). 

Stir in flour, just until fully incorporated. 

Drop by teaspoon-sized scoops (I use a small cookie scoop to make sure they're all the same size, but you can just use a spoon, if you want) onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 9-10 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Vanilla Buttercream

½ c. butter

½ tsp. vanilla

1 c. powdered sugar

Whip all ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl, until light and fluffy. Frost cookies.

Orange Glaze

¾ c. thawed orange juice concentrate

¼ c. butter, cut into pieces

Boil orange juice concentrate down to ¼ c. syrup.

Beat in butter (I use a rubber spatula and beat it in by hand, but you can use a mixer if you like). 

Chill slightly. (15-20 minutes--just enough so that it won't melt the frosting) Then, drizzle over frosted cookies. 

Serve right away, or place back on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and freeze for later. (I actually love these right out of the freezer. They're soft enough that they can be eaten frozen, and one of my friends described them as a "Creamsicle on Crack.")

Printable PDF Recipes

**I still don't know who "they" are, but "they" also say it takes 8 weeks ... or 10 weeks ... or 66 days ... or a few months to form a habit ... there are lots of different time frames given as hard-and-fast-facts on this topic. Because everyone who claims to know all about the best way to form habits seems to be absolutely confident that their method and time frame is THE way to do it. None of them really seem to take the neurospicy brain chemistry into account.

*disclaimer: I haven't actually yet tried literally everything in my cookie-making adventures, because there are about a zillion ingredients in the world ... but I have managed to succeed so far in every challenge that I have been given. And I've been given a lot of challenges over the years!! So I'm gonna claim that "literally" and wear it with pride.