Monday, September 19, 2011

Support the Arts with Cookies!

Our "official" one year anniversary is October 1st which is appropriate since it is also National Cookie Day (Really!  look it up!).  We've started a tradition of giving gifts on our birthday instead of receiving them.  Last year we donated the proceeds from our grand opening to the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization of Houston.  As a matter of fact, I became a big brother in January.  When I'm not in the kitchen, my little brother and I are hanging out!
As I mulled ideas in my head this year about which organization to support, I came up with some criteria.  It had to be about kids (many of our best customers are kids!).  It had to be local.  And this year I wanted it to be about the arts.  Living a good life is  a work of art, so we should surround ourselves with good food, good music and good art.

I work with a lot of kids throughout the year through various schools and organizations.  One group, The Children's Music Foundation, stood out in my mind.  Their mission is to teach kids how to play the guitar (in fact, the kids receive their own guitar) but in return the child must "pay it forward," which means he or she must also teach someone to play the guitar.  I love the idea of "pay it forward."  It allows each one of us to accept the kindness and guidance of others while placing a responsibility on us to do the same for another person in our life.

If you'd like more information about the Children's Music Foundation, please click this link.  Even better, come and see us on October 1st and decorate some cookies for a good cause!

Special Touches Bridal Open House

Join us for an intimate evening of cookie decorating, tasty food, music, wedding planning advice and more!  Michael's Cookie Jar is hosting its first ever Bridal Open House.  We've teamed up with some of the finest wedding professionals in Houston to bring you a memorable evening of "Special Touches."
Visit our partners' website
and then meet them in person on September 29th!

Monday, June 20, 2011

We're Turning One!

It's hard to believe our bakery has been open a whole year! 

We are very grateful to all our customers
who have supported us!

And we look forward to serving you for years to come!

All this week, every customer will receive
a complimentary "number one" cookie!
Please stop in!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

The summer heat is here and school is out.  It's been especially warm this spring, but we still ramp up the ovens every morning at 6AM to bake the day's cookies.   The ebb and flow of our customers has change a bit as people adjust to their summer schedules. 

We were quite busy for graduation events and now we're looking forward Father's Day, which is the first holiday of the summer season. 

We also have another milestone coming up in the next couple weeks.  Our retail bakery opened to the public on June 22 of last year.  We'll be celebrating by giving out tasty sugar cookies in the shape of the number "1" (More on that in the next post). 

For now, dad's are on our mind and we've got a special cookie pie that the whole family will love!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Easter!

I think decorated Easter cookies may be my favorite of all the holidays.  There's something about a bright yellow baby chick or a smiling bunny face that just makes me feel happy!  Since Easter falls late in the year we get a little extra time to show off our decorated Easter cookies and Easter cookie gift bags. 

One new item we're offering this year is a jumbo decorated rabbit.  It stands 8" tall and comes in a gift bag with baby chicks and decorated egg-shaped cookies. 
And we have our signature cookie cake on display at the bakery.  It's all decked out for Easter.  Stop by and have a look!

Our Signature Cookie Cake

On a side note, April 2 marks the one year anniversary that we moved into our current retail location.  And you loyal customers already know that June 22 is the one year anniversary of opening our doors to the public.  Thank you!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Mission Statement

A mission statement is a "statement of purpose" or "guiding hand" for a business.  In business school we are taught that it is one of the first things a new enterprise should define.  After all, how will you know "what to do" if you don't define your purpose from the beginning?

Good or bad, we did not write a mission statement when Michael's Cookie Jar opened for business in the autumn of 2006.  Back then we operated out of a shared commercial kitchen in Tomball.  We knew at some point a mission statement would be a good idea, but at the beginning we were satisfied following our instincts and simply make "cookies that are beautiful to the eye with a taste that exceeds your expectations."  That meant using real ingredients, like butter, sugar, eggs and natural flavors.  It also meant using time-honored culinary techniques. 

As we approach a milestone (on April 2nd we will celebrate the "move in" date to our current retail location) we have finally defined our purpose! 

Writing a mission statement is not easy.  It must be concise, accurate and inspiring.  We knew there had to be something about great tasting cookies in the mission statement, but we wanted to be a little more than that.  After all, cookies are not produced in a vacuum.  It's really about people: the people who make the cookies, the people who eat the cookies and the community it creates.

With that, we present the "Official Michael's Cookie Jar Mission Statement."  You feedback is welcome!

Michael’s Cookie Jar is dedicated to graciously serving our community exceptionally delicious cookies made with love, care and natural ingredients.
We will accomplish this by: 
  • Creating an environment that nurtures our people and nourishes our community.
  • Respecting, developing and rewarding the labor, talents, and dedication of our people.
  • Using time-honored culinary techniques and real ingredients like butter, sugar, eggs, flour and natural flavorings.
  • Charging a fair price with the expectation of a reasonable profit.
  • Giving back to the community that supports us.
  • Accepting that every member of this organization plays a vital role in achieving these common goals

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

As we begin the new year, I was thinking about themes to work on for the month of January.  Other months with major holidays have easy to identify themes, like Halloween or the 4th of July.  January is a time of renewal and reflection as we assess the previous year and look forward to the new year. 

One theme that keeps coming up for me is "generosity."  True, there is a lot of injustice in our world today, but there's also a lot that works well.  And often, what works well in our lives is simply the result of our own generosity and the generosity of others. 

If you look around, you can see examples of generosity everywhere and everyday.  I think it's important to be aware of those moments because that's what gives us hope and happiness that things will work out.  Stinginess may put a few extra dollars in the bank, but it won't lift your spirits or give you the truest sense of security and well-being.

The theme of "generosity" is something we try to live by everyday at Michael's Cookie Jar.  When I started the business in 2006, it was important to me that we go back to basics and provide people with something real and sustaining and delicious.  To me, that started with using  only butter, sugar, eggs, flour, fresh nuts, imported chocolate and natural flavorings in all our cookies.  That wouldn't have been a very smart move if the final product didn't taste any better than our competitor's products, but they do.  And the customer notices.  At first I was worried about the cost of using these ingredients, but our food cost for 2010 was less than 15%.  I'm glad we decided to not skimp on quality ingredients and I'm even happier that our customer notices and is willing to pay the little bit extra for it.

Beyond the ingredients, we have a commitment to making all our cookies by hand, in small batches.  We offer samples to everyone the moment they enter our bakery.  And most times when customers place special orders, they receive a few more cookies than they originally requested. 

We've also started building relationships with area schools.  I'm happy to say that we've provided many cookies for school benefits so they can raise much needed money to improve their educational programs.

We're building a business on the idea that giving generously will create loyal customers who visit us often and remember us for their special occasions.  At Michael's Cookie Jar we hope to be part of what works well in the world.  All the best to you in 2011.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pumpkin Moon Cookie

Ok, I'm very proud of this cookie...even though its debut is about four months late, which reminds me of something else.  Customers always ask "what's my favorite cookie."  Honestly, I love'm all (how many people are willing to name their favorite child?).  I don't put a new item into our pastry case until I taste its specialness! 

So that brings me back to the late debut of the Pumpkin Moon Cookie.  We were testing recipes in the late summer, but not really liking the results.  This cookie, which is really a little cake that is baked and then the bottom side is iced, had to be moist with a distinct taste of pumpkin and a hint of spice.  We tried several versions of a recipe, but the results were disappointing. 

Once we got into the autumn season, there was no time to test recipes anymore. The holidays were upon us and all our energy was focused on filling orders.

After Christmas,  I remembered that a customer had brought me a recipe during the summer for a pumpkin cookie that she liked.  Initially I didn't think much of it by looking at the ingredients. Well, later in the autumn, that same customer came in with a sample of her cookie for me to taste, and it was yummy!  I revisited the recipe, made a few changes (omit shortening, replace with butter, etc) and started testing again.  Moist! Pumpkiny! With a hint of spice!  We added a cream cheese icing and....perfection!

Now, along with our classic Black & White cookies and Mocha Moon cookie, we present the Pumpkin Moon Cookie!

So, dear reader, which version do you like better?  The chocolate swirl top or the one that is half dipped in demerera sugar?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cold Weather Treats

Happy New Year!  We had a great holiday season at Michael's Cookie Jar.  When people ask how it went, I say we had a "tsunami of cookie orders!"  We are very grateful for all our customers trusting us with their holiday cookie needs!

To start out the new year, we wanted to do something a little "out-of-the-box" for a bakery.  Since the weather has turned cold (well, sort of....) we thought it might be nice to offer some satisfying, hot beverages.  And true to our mission of making everything from scratch, with wholesome ingredients, we have some classically prepared beverages that will take the winter chill off you!

First, we start with hot coffee.  Nothing fancy here, but we use a full-flavored, robust bean from Mexico that is organically grown and fair trade.  Stepping up our game, we next have REAL hot chocolate.  It's a brew of Valrhona chocolate, milk, cream and sugar.  It's very rich and offered as an 8 oz portion. 

Lastly, we have something that I just recently discovered myself.  At Christmas, I visited Houston friends who are from Mexico.  They serve "Ponche de Fruta (Fruit Punch).  But this isn't your aunt Bea's fruit punch!  This punch is served hot and with generous chunks of fresh fruit simmered in a broth of tamarind and hibiscus petals.

We'll offer these items for a limited time so stop in soon!