Saturday, December 31, 2011


HAPPY NEW YEAR Pictures, Images and Photos

I hope that 2012 brings many blessings to all of you out there in cyberspace!

Some of my resolutions for the year ahead:

1.  Get the garage cleaned out and organized.

2.  Lose those 10 pounds.............again.

3.  Learn how to ice-skate backwards.

4.  Finally make this house a home.

5.  Do one thing each day that will make me a better person.

6.  Finally, I resolve to complete all of my resolutions this year.

Good luck with your resolutions! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gift Tags

I found this very cute cookie elf in the Silhouette Studio online store and decided it would be perfect to use as gift tags on my Christmas cookie plates this year:

She looks exactly like me!

Except I'm plumper.

And older.


Cookie Elf by Sarah Bailey:  cookie_the_elf_C00796_20508
You will need Silhouette Studio to get this print and cut file.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas Cookie Parade: Watkins Vanilla Sugar Cookies

When I need an all-purpose, old-fashioned, roll-out sugar cookie for decorating, the recipe I turn to is this one from the J. R. Watkins Company, circa 1936.  I found it in the All-American Cookie Book by Nancy Baggett (any lover of cookies NEEDS this book in their library).  Cookies made with this recipe hold their shape well when baked and are sturdy enough to hold all the toppings that 21 3rd graders can think to pile on them.  The bonus is that they also taste amazing when they are unadorned:  buttery, crisp, 
melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  

SugarBear's class getting ready to decorate their snowman cookies.

Watkins Vanilla Sugar Cookies

1.  In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour (sifted after measuring) and 1 teaspoon baking powder.  With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together
1 cup (2 sticks) softened unsalted butter with 1 cup (7 oz) sugar until well blended and fluffy, about
2 minutes.  Beat in 2 room-temperature egg yolks, then a generous pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  Gradually beat or stir in the flour mixture to form a smooth dough.

2.  Divide the dough in half or thirds.  Place each portion between large sheets of wax paper and roll out 1/8-inch thick.  Check the underside of the dough and smooth out any wrinkles.  Stack the rolled dough (paper attached) on a baking sheet and refrigerate until cold and firm, about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

3.  Take out one portion of dough at a time and gently peel away, then pat one sheet of wax paper back into place.  Flip the dough over, then peel off and discard the second sheet.  Cut out shapes with desired cutters and transfer to prepared baking sheets, about 1 1/4 inches apart.  Reroll and chill any scraps.  Sprinkle cookies with sugar or decorating sugar, if desired, or leave plain if you will ice them.

4.  Bake one sheet of cookies at a time for 8 to 11 minutes, or until lightly colored on top and slightly darker at the edges, rotating the sheet half-way through baking.  Let cool on the baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or freeze for 1 month.

SugarBear's Creation

This little man belongs to Bee over at Bee's Hive of Drama.

Please decorate us!

I used to have trouble rolling my dough out evenly.  It would always be too thick in the middle and too thin at the edges.  I invested in a set of rubber rolling-pin guides and now my rolled out dough has the correct thickness all the way through.  I purchased mine from King Arthur Flour.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cookie Parade: Snickerdoodles

Are you looking for a large, soft, home-style, nicely spiced, comfort-food type of cookie?  Yes?  Then I think you should turn to the traditional Snickerdoodle.  These are perfect for the holidays because, not only do they taste like childhood, they make your house smell divine while they are baking.  They are also super easy to make...

...provided you measure your flour correctly:

Oops.  I weighed out 1 1/2 cups of flour instead of 2 1/2 cups. 
I wondered why they were so difficult to roll into balls...

The recipe I use comes from America's Test Kitchen.  It makes large cookies that are crispy at the edges and soft in the middle.  This would also be a good 1st cookie recipe for kids.  What kid doesn't like to roll stuff in cinnamon and sugar?


1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.  Combine 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (12 1/2 oz), 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl.  With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter (1 stick) with 1/2 cup vegetable shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add 2 large room-temp eggs, one at a time, mixing after each until well incorporated.  Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined.

3.  Combine 1 tablespoon cinnamon with 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl.  Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls with moistened hands, toss in cinnamon sugar to coat, then place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Bake each sheet separately until edges are light golden brown and centers are soft and puffy, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating each sheet halfway through baking.  Cool 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Cookie Parade: Spiced Spritz with Browned Butter Glaze

I love to collect cookie magazines each year during the holidays.  One of my favorites is put out by the Land O Lakes butter company:

I love to flip through and find some new recipes to try out for gifting to my friends and family.  This year, I baked up a batch of Spiced Spritz with Brown Butter Glaze from the 2011 edition:

These tender, little cookies are pure heaven.  Gently spiced with pumpkin pie spice, and nutty and buttery from the brown butter glaze, it is difficult to eat just one.  Bake a batch for yourself and you'll see what I mean.  (You need a cookie press or pastry bag with a large tip for this recipe.)

Spiced Spritz with Browned Butter Glaze

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Place 1 cup softened butter in a large bowl and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and
1/2 teaspoon salt ; continue beating, scraping bowl occasionally, until well mixed.  Add 1 egg and
1 teaspoon vanilla; beat until well mixed.  Reduce speed to low and add 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour.  Beat until well mixed.

2.  Place dough into a cookie press fitted with desired template.  Press cookies, 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until edges are set but not brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

3.  For the glaze, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Continue cooking, stirring constantly and watching closely, until butter just starts to turn golden (3 to 5 minutes).  Immediately remove from heat.  Cool slightly.

4. Combine browned butter with 3/4 powdered sugar in a medium bowl.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and enough milk (1 to 2 tablespoons) for desired glazing consistency.  Place the glaze in a sandwich bag, snip one corner, and drizzle glaze over cookies.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas Cookie Parade: Chocolate Hearts

Here is another oldie-but-goodie from my previous blog; from 2009.  These are too good to not share the recipe again.  If a brownie and a meringue had a love child, these cookies would be it.  They are from
The All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. If you love to bake cookies and do not own this book, go purchase a copy right this minute!  I promise you will love it.

Chocolate Hearts

3 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken up or coarsely chopped (I used Ghirardelli)
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons American-style unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hersheys)
1/3 cup egg whites (about 3 whites) at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, microwave the chocolate on 100-percent power for 1 minute. Stir well. Continue microwaving on 50-percent power, stirring at 30-second intervals. Stop microwaving before the chocolate completely melts and let the residual heat finish the job. Let cool to warm.
3. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on low speed, beat together the chocolate, about one-third of the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder until well blended. Gradually add about one-third of the egg whites and beat until evenly incorporated. Add another one-third of the powdered sugar, then another one-third of the egg whites, and beat until smooth. Repeat the process, adding the remaining one-third of the powdered sugar, then the remaining one third of the egg whites and the vanilla. Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 minutes more, or until very smooth and well blended. Let the dough stand for 5 minutes to allow the egg whites to be more fully absorbed. At this point, if the dough seems dry and crumbly, beat in 1 to 2 teaspoons water until it holds together. if the dough seems sticky and wet, beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons more powdered sugar to stiffen it just slightly. Beat the dough for 1 minute more or until very well blended.

4. Divide the dough in half. Place each portion between large sheets of wax paper. Roll out the portions a scant 1/4 inch thick; check the underside of the sough and smooth out any wrinkles that form. Working with one portion at a time, gently peel away, then pat one sheet of wax paper back into place. Flip the dough over, then peel off and discard the second sheet. Use a 2 to 2-1/4 inch heart-shaped cutter to cut out the cookies; if the cutter sticks, occasionally dip it into powdered sugar, tapping off the excess. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing about 1-1/4 inches apart. Reroll any dough scraps.

5. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the middle of the oven for 9 to 13 minutes, or until dry on the surface but soft in the centers when very lightly pressed. Slide the cookies, still attached to the parchment, onto a wire rack. Let stand until completely cooled. Carefully peel the cookies from the parchment.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days or freeze up to 1 month.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Cookie Parade: Confetti Bars

This is a post from my old blog, circa 2008:

I wanted to do a cooking project with the kids so I pulled out a recipe for Confetti Bars that I have been wanting to try. The bars are basically Rice Krispie Treats with Fruit Loops and Cap'n Crunch added into the mix (make sure you have your insulin shot ready). The kids had fun measuring and stirring while I handled the stove.

Here is the original recipe (from

Confetti Bars:

9 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tea salt
12 cups (2 1/2 bags) miniature marshmallows
6 cups each of Rice Krispies, Fruit Loops and Cap' Crunch cereals
cooking spray

1. Spray a 9x9x2 inch pan with oil. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the salt and marshmallows; stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in the cereals until combined.

2. Transfer mixture to prepared pan. Press firmly and evenly into the pan and let cool for at least 30 minutes.

3. Cut into 3x3 bars. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.

This is what we came up with:

You'll notice that I used a bigger pan. Based on comments at the website, most people mentioned that there was just too much mixture to fit in the 9x9 pan. The recipe uses 18 cups of cereal, for goodness sakes! I took their advice and used a 9x13 pan. If we make these again, I think I will use the smaller pan and halve the recipe. Even in a very large stockpot, that much cereal and marshmallow was difficult to stir. One last tip is to spray a large piece of foil with the cooking spray and place that on top as you press the mix into the pan to keep it from sticking to your hands.

The kids pose with their creation:

Diagnosis? Delicious!

Christmas Cookie Parade: Marvelous Chocolate Mint Cookies

Yesterday, I tried out the recipe for these chocolaty, minty, yummy little morsels.  They're really easy to make, and so worth the effort.  The mint flavor comes from the Andes Creme de Menthe candies that are melted on top of each cookie.  The recipe is from The America's Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies magazine (2010).  They first appeared in Cook's Country magazine (Dec/Jan '07) and were submitted by reader Karen Bland for their Christmas cookies recipe contest.  Now I know why they were one of the winners.

Melt one of these babies on top of each cookie for chocolaty, minty deliciousness.

Marvelous Chocolate Mint Cookies

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2.  Combine 1-1/4 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.  Melt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter with 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Add 6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60%) to the butter mixture, cover pan with lid, and let stand off heat until chocolate melts, about 4 minutes.  Stir until smooth, transfer chocolate to bowl of electric mixer and let cool, about 10 minutes.

3.  With electric mixer on medium speed, beat 1 large egg into cooled chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.  Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture until just combined.  Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

4.  Roll 2 teaspoons (5/8 oz) dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Bake, one sheet at a time, until cookies are just set, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking time.  Remove from oven and top each hot cookie with an unwrapped Andes chocolate mint
(you will need about 36 mints).  Place the sheet back in the oven for 3 to 5 seconds to help melt the chocolate mints.  Remove and use a knife to spread the softened mint over the top of the cookie.  Sprinkle with non-pareils if desired.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Babies, It's Cold Outside

Some good, long-time friends of mine have recently become
foster-parents to twin boys.  With the chilly winds that have been whipping around here lately, I figured they could use some toasty hats to keep them warm.  I knit up a couple of
Little Boy Blue beanies for them:

Many thanks to Tonya Wagner at The Shizknit for sharing her pattern.  It is nice and stretchy and should fit the boys for a while.  I cast on 72 stitches instead of 64 (the decreases work in multiples
of 8)  and added some jaunty little pom-poms on top.