Monday, December 28, 2009

It's a Girl!

Our niece Cassie, and her husband Brennen, just had her first baby on December 10, 2009. A momentous occasion because her birth made grandparents out of my brother and sister in law. (This is the brother who suffered cardiac arrest in October, so greatful that he lived to be a grandpa!)
Little Avalyn also made me a Great Aunt!! Wow I am SO not old enough to have that title!
Knowing that Cassie likes baby bling, lots of ooh la la, and super cute baby fashion, I had a ton of fun making these cookies for her! (Sad thing was I had to ship them. . . so they weren't exactly fresh!)
Cassie even has her own on line shop, Madison Envy, super cute home decor, fashion and accesories. Check it out!
Welcome, welcome sweet little Avalyn Rose! Our family is so blessed to have her!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Latest Sugar Cookies

I just wanted to put up a few pictures of my most recent sugar cookies.

Race car cookies for a 9 year olds birthday. My own car loving 10 year old son was lingering close by while I was making these.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Christmas Favorites

Every Christmas I love spending a couple days baking all our favorite cookies, candy, and other treats to wrap up pretty and give away. Some of these weren't on my favorites list until I married my husband. My MIL has some fantastic recipes that won their way to my heart! Here are just a few of the things our family enjoys.

I love making the tags as much as I enjoy baking the goodies!

Raspberry Bars

Tender shortbread, tangy raspberry jam, crunchy sugar crystals. . .mmm!


I think most people have at least tried these. So simple, so good.

Caramel Fudge Cookies

Raisin filled cookies

They don't sound tempting, don't look extra fabulous (I usually drizzle them with white chocolate to improve their looks) but they are oh so good!

Raspberry Bars

Crumb Mixture:

2 ¼ C Flour
1 C Sugar
1 C Chopped Pecans
1 C Butter
1 Egg

1 10 oz. Jar Raspberry Jam

Heat oven to 350. For crumb mixture, in large mixing bowl combine Flour and sugar. Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form. Stir in nuts. Add egg and stir just until combined. Reserve
1 ½ cups crumb mixture; press remaining crumb mixture on bottom of greased 8 inch square pan. Spread jam to within ½ inch from edge of unbaked crust. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over jam layer. Bake for 35-40 or until edges are browned. Cool completely. Cut into bars. Makes 2 dozen.

In large heavy pot on stove combine:
1 C corn syrup
1 C sugar
1 C peanut butter
Bring just to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in 5 cups rice crispies. Press into buttered
9 x 13 pan.
In microwave safe bowl combine:
1 C semi sweet choc chips
1 C butterscotch chips
Melt at reduced power, stirring often, until completely melted and smooth. Spread on top of scotcharoos and let set.

Raisin Filled Cookies
2 cups shortening
2 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 Tblsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla
6 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs, water and vanilla, then add dry ingredients. Mix well. Dough will be soft. Divide dough into 4 sections. Roll each section into a 1 /2 inch X 12 inch log. Wrap in wax paper and put into refrigerator for several hours so it will be firmer to cut. (I put the rolls in the freezer so they firm up faster)
2 cups ground raisins
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tblsp. flour
1 cup water
1 tsp.vanilla
1/2 cup nuts
Combine all ingredients into a medium saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture bubbles and thickens. Remove from heat and let cool a little.
Cut dough into 1/4 inch slices and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Put approximately 1/2 to 1tsp. filling on each cookie and cover with another cut of dough. You do not need to press down. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar before baking (if desired). Bake at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Classic Favorite

Peanut Blossoms are an age old Christmas favorite. I forget how much I like them until I eat one in December. I wanted to share this great recipe with you. I've tried the one in the Better Homes and Garden cookbook (you know the red and white checkered one that everyone thinks is the Betty Crocker cook book) and it's just not as good. These stay nice and soft, which I love!

Peanut Blossoms

Cream together in mixer bowl:

1/2 C butter

1/2 C peanut butter

1/2 C sugar

1/2 C brown sugar

1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
Sift in dry ingredients:
1 3/4 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Roll into one inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes. Place a Hershey Kiss in the center of each cookie immediately after removing from oven.

Chocolate Covered Ritz With a Twist

We've seen Martha Stewart make Ritz Mints, Nabisco is now even selling their own fudge dipped Ritz. But have you ever had a Ritz Twix?
Some of my favorite gal pals and I came up with this idea last year while playing with chocolate.

Take a Ritz cracker and gently press some home made caramel onto it.
Then dip it it chocolate!


In a large heavy pot combine:
2 C half and half
1 C butter
2 C sugar
1 3/4 C corn syrup

Cook over medium heat until 238 degrees. (Use a candy thermometer) Stir often. Especially towards the end of the cooking time, that is when it scorches easily! I like to cook my caramel just slightly under soft ball stage ( which is 240 degrees). It keeps it softer and easier to work with. The cooking process usually takes about 40 minutes. When 238 is reached remove from heat and add:
1 t vanilla
pour into a buttered (don't use cooking spray) 9 x 13 pan. Let set.

I have had a lot of people ask me "can't I just melt down Kraft caramels"? Well. . . if you think that would taste good, go right ahead. The problem with that stuff is once it is melted it is very runny, it'd be hard to get it on the cracker nicely.
If you cook your caramel too long it will be hard and not very easy to smoosh onto a cracker. I have done that before! After it set up I put it back in the pot and added a couple tablespoons of half and half. I melted it down and stirred it just until smooth. Then I poured it back into the 9 x 13 pan and let it reset. It was fixed!

Chocolate dipping tips

You can use candy melts, chocolate chips, or fine quality bar chocolate. Just depends on your taste. The best way to melt chocolate is in a double boiler. I don't have one so I use a pot and a Pyrex bowl that sits on top of my pot. You don't want your bowl to touch the water in the pot. Put 1 inch of water in the pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile place 2/3 of your chocolate in bowl. When water is boiling turn off heat and place bowl on top of pot. Let the hot steam melt the chocolate. This takes a while, don't get in a hurry and turn the heat back on. Stir, stir, stir. When the chocolate is melted and smooth remove from pot and add remaining 1/3 of chocolate. Stir, stir, stir. This also takes a while to melt. This step is what tempers the chocolate, allowing it to set up nice and firmly, and be so shiny and pretty! If you try to hurry it along by reheating it, the chocolate may turn spotty or seed, which will not make you happy. Once the chocolate is all melted and smooth you are ready to dip.

Drop your ritz/caramel cracker into the bowl of chocolate. Completely cover with chocolate. Fish it out with a fork, tap fork on side of bowl to drizzle off excess chocolate and place on wax paper. Let set.
When all are dipped drizzle with extra chocolate by placing chocolate in ziploc bag, cut off a corner and drizzle away. (The smaller you cut the corner the thinner your drixzzle lines will be. I like dainty drizzle)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Cupcakes

From left to right: Kitchen Sink (they've got everything accept the kitchen sink in them. . . dulce de leche, chocolate fudge, cream, toasted coconut and pecans) Peppermint cream on chocolate cake, Cranberry cupcake with holly berries made out of modeling chocolate, and Gingerbread with lemon cream cheese frosting.

These little peppermint cuties are SO easy, I can't wait to tell you!

The Holly and berries were fun with chocolate mousse too!

So on with the Peppermint Frosting!

This recipe comes from a dessert makeover. One of my husbands favorite childhood treats was this fun

Peppermint Dessert

1 pkg grahm crackers, rolled fine. Sprinkle half into the bottom of a 9 x 9 pan.

1 C Whipping Cream
2 T Sugar
1 t Vanilla

Whip Cream, add sugar and vanilla. Add:

2 C mini marshmallows
3 T crushed peppermint candy (use more if using candy cane)
1/2 C nuts

Mix together, spread over grahm cracker crumbs, Top with remaining crumbs.

So. . . for the cupcakes I used a pastry cream (Pastry Pride) whipped it and added crushed candy cane until the cream turned pink and it tasted pepperminty! That's it! SO good!
The first time I made these I added the marshmallows, but they were akwardly lumpy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Decor

I'm participating in Tip Junkies virtual home tour -holiday addition and the Nester's home tour. Head on over to check out tons of fun Christmas decor!

Cookies, chocolates, put the tree up, more chocolates, help plan the church Christmas party, put some other decorations up, more cookies, more decorations, help pull off a sweet nativity program for the church Christmas party, cupcakes, almost done decorating, fun stuff with the kids, prepping for next weeks chocolate/cupcake marathon. . . Wow, my head is spinning! No wonder when the receptionist at the dentist office (I need a root canal, yay!) asked me how to pronounce my name I just stared and blinked at her, trying to process what she said. . . Ha!
I'm not complaining, I'm smiling! I love the hustle and bustle of Christmas. I love all the baking cash we're stashing for our much anticipated Boston trip (husband qualified for the Boston marathon). I LOVE the twinkly sparklies in our home, and our kids' excitement for the season!

So here is our Christmas home, finally (mostly) done!

Hang stuff on the ceiling?!? What a great idea! Props to the super talented people who created the GORGEOUS display at a local flower shop (Perkens Flower for you local folk).

This is another favorite addition this year. Just take some green garland and wrap it around your chandelier. Now add ornaments, bows, pics, whatever you like! I dangled snowflakes with coiled wire.

There is a tree in there somewhere, I promise!

These little cuties are a family tradition. Four generations of my family have had these stockings! The one on the end belongs to my five year old. . . I will finish it one of these years. . .

Fashionista Cookies

Sugar Cookies for a cosmotologists birthday!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hand Dipped Chocolate

I LOVE making chocolates!! From left to right: Milk chocolate truffle, mint chocolate truffle, Ritz Twix, scotchy mellows (my favorite!) , peanut butter creams. I love the challenge of coming up with new flavors. The latest is a chocolate raspberry truffle. Mmmm!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Sweeties

I just realized how long it's been since I've posted!! Wow, sorry!! Busy, busy, busy. . . I'm sure you can all relate! Here are a couple shots of some Christmas baking I have done. I promise much more to come in the next week, plus I will share some of my favorite Christmas recipes with you!
Christmas sugar cookies for my daughters preschool class to celebrate her 5th birthday! Not my absolute best work, but considering I FORGOT about bringing them, ran home and slapped them together before preschool was over that day, I think they are ok. I know, who does that!?!?! My poor child. . . I tried to talk her into some easy cutsie cupcakes, but she is proud of her December birthday and wanted to celebrate Christmas style!

From left to right, Gingerbread cupcake with luscious, light, lemon frosting, Peanut Butter Kiss (you've already seen this one, I know) and Eggnog!