Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone has a safe and very happy new year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

I Survived Christmas!

I feel like I've been away from my blog for too long. But the past week is a serious blur. Squeezing in time to sleep was tough, let alone blogging. Between school parties, choir concerts, wrapping presents, welcoming out of state relatives and keeping kids under control, I'm surprised I can even think straight enough to write a post. But it was all so much fun, even if it will take me till next summer to recover.

Besides enjoying the heck out of the gift giving and the looks on the kids' faces at present time, I loved baking this year. Giving cookie boxes and trays as gifts is lots of fun. Like I said before, I did start early this year with the baking, so to make up for the extra time I had from baking so early, I made more cookies than I needed, lol. The two top pictures are from the cookie trays I sent to our local library (what a great bunch of people!) and to my husband's work.

This is Santa's share of cookies on Christmas Eve. If you look closely, you can see that someone stole a red candy before Santa could even get to the cookies. I think that was ok with Santa, though. He had more than his fair share of cookies the week before Christmas (wink, wink).

This is the Gingerbread house the kids and their cousins built. I try to snag one each year so they have something to keep them busy. Anything to keep those little hands out of trouble!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

"Isn't it funny that at Christmas something in you gets so lonely for - I don't know what exactly, but it's something that you don't mind so much not having at other times."
-Kate L. Bosher

"Roses are reddish
Violets are bluish
If it weren't for Christmas
We'd all be Jewish."
-Benny Hill

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I can't believe it's here. At first I thought it would never get here and now it is Christmas Eve already. The kids are so restless waiting for their cousins to get here and for the party to start. I can't blame them. I was up early this morning myself, anxious to start the day.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and very Merry Christmas and that the day helps create some cherished memories. And don't forget to eat your fair share of sweets. After all, it is Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

M&M Shortbread Cookies

M & M's and Christmas together? What could possibly be more natural? I think M & M's go with anything really. Shortbread cookies are no exception. I really wanted to find a cookie with lots of color for the cookie gifts I'm making this year, and this recipe worked out very well. And it's delicious and easy too. I made an initial batch to test the recipe out, since I've never made them before. I froze the cookies and tested one after a few days. M & M's freeze very well :) I'm glad I found a new favorite cookie to add to the others I make every year!

M&M Shortbread Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 cup M&M's, any color

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix butter, sugar and vanilla well using an electric mixer. Gradually blend in flour and corn starch.

Form dough into 1 inch balls and place on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Gently flatten each cookie using fingers or the flat bottomed drinking glass (dip in sugar to prevent sticking). Place M&M's on top of cookies.*

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until bottoms begin to brown. Cool for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack. Cool completely.

*You can blend the M&M's into the batter instead of placing them on top.

"I'm not overweight, just chocolate enriched."
-popular bumper sticker

Monday, December 15, 2008

White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake

I was looking for a hostess gift for my hubby's supervisor, who throws an annual Christmas party at her home for all the managers from work. In previous years, we usually brought a good wine or something similar. I didn't want to bring the same thing again this year. I thought about it for a few weeks and had no idea what to bring. Then I saw this recipe in one of the emails I get from Paula Deen's site. Perfect! It was a breeze to make. I even made it a few weeks ahead of time and froze it. It worked out great and I wasn't pressured to make it the day before the party. I wish I could tell you what it tastes like, but I made the hostess promise not to share it if she didn't want to. She had a piece, though, before the party was over and gave it rave reviews. Whew! Now maybe I gave the hubby a better chance for a raise at work :)

White Chocolate Cranberry Cheesecake

1 (16 oz) can whole berry cranberry sauce
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 (4 oz) bar white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (I used good quality white chocolate chips, melted)
2 cups fresh cranberries (optional)
1/4 cup cranberry preserves, melted (optional) (I could not find cranberry preserves so I used strawberry)

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook cranberry sauce for 35 minutes, stirring frequently until reduced to 1 cup. Cover and chill 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and melted butter. Press firmly on bottom and 1 inch up sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in melted white chocolate.

Spoon 1/2 of batter into prepared pan. Spread reduced cranberry sauce over batter. Top with remaining batter. Bake 45 minutes or until almost set. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Chill 8 hours before serving. Can be frozen for up to 1 month. To serve, garish with fresh cranberries and brush with melted preserves, if desired.

"What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day."
-Phyllis Diller

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Season's First Snowman

Ok, he's not exactly a picture perfect snowman, but we tried! It's about 50 degrees today and the snow is all melty-like, so it's easy to form and makes great snowballs and snowmen. We didn't have any coal for the buttons or eyes, so my husband brought out the spray paint. I never thought you could spray paint snow, but it works. Go figure!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Is It Christmas Yet?

I sure hope we get a snow like this at Christmas! Knowing how it usually works, it'll snow like this until Christmas then the temps will hit 70 on Christmas Eve :) So I'm enjoying the beautiful white stuff while it lasts.

"When Christmas bells are swinging above the fields of snow, we hear sweet voices ringing from lands of long ago, and etched on vacant places are half-forgotten faces of friends we used to cherish, and loves we used to know."
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow."
-Jeff Valdez

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy 12th Birthday, Baby Girl

Happy 12th birthday to my baby girl! I know everyone says it, but I can't believe you have grown up so fast. From my littlest to my tallest, you have been a joy, a source of pride and my little spitfire. I love you so much. Have a wonderful day!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

After baking all weekend, one of the better cookies I made was these Chocolate Crinkle Cookies (say that five times fast!). I'm always a little unnerved trying new recipes, especially ones found on the Internet. But these cookies were easy and tasted great. The cool, soft taste of powdered sugar on the outside with the fudgy inside was a delicious combination. There was a surprising depth to the chocolate too. I was a bit impatient with the refrigeration time, so my cookies are wider than they should be. Whoops!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1/2 cup melted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
3 tsps. vanilla
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup confectioners' sugar

In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, melted chocolate, vanilla and granulated sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture one spoonful at a time, incorporating after each addition. Chill dough overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll teaspoons full of dough into small balls then drop into the confectioners' sugar to coat. Place coated chocolate balls onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, being careful to not over bake. Allow to rest for 2 minutes then remove to wire rack to cool. Makes approx. 60 cookies.

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall."
-Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

Friday, December 5, 2008

Molasses Spice Cookies

Oh, the Christmas baking has begun! I finally got smart this year and started early. In the past, I always waited until the last minute because I had no idea you could freeze most cookies. Duh! But now that I've got a clue, these were the first cookies I started with. I've never made them before because spicy cookies never really interested me. But after tasting these, I can't figure out why I never tried them! They are so delicious! Crunchy on the outside, chewy inside and the sugar on top make for one heck of a tasty cookie. I've seen so many versions of this cookie, but this one is the simplest.

Molasses Spice Cookies

3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup of sugar plus 2 tablespoons
4 tablespoons dark molasses
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ginger

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, beat shortening, egg, 1 cup sugar, and molasses just until blended. In another bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. Add slowly to wet mix until blended. Place remainder of sugar in small bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, dip in sugar (you can roll completely in sugar, if you want). Place on lightly sprayed baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until brown on bottom and cracked on top.

"Slow as molasses in January."

"I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month."
-Harlan Miller

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One Word

I haven't got any recipes to post today. I'm busy gearing up for the tons of holiday baking I'll be doing in the coming weeks. I'm hoping to share some of the recipes from our family classics as well as any new recipes that turn out good. So instead of a recipe, I do have a new meme my sister sent to me that I thought I'd share. I just love memes!

Use only one word answers. It's harder than you think!

1. Where is your cell phone? pocketbook
2. Your significant other? working
3. Your hair? reddish
4. Your mother? confused
5. Your father? distant
6. Your favorite thing? kids
7. Your dream last night? disjointed
8. Your favorite drink? tea
9. Your dream/goal? moving
10. The room you're in? living
11. Your fear? dying
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Virginia
13. Where were you last night? home
14. What you're not? rested!
15. Muffins? yuck
16. One of your wish list items? chocolate
17. Where you grew up? Virginia
18. The last thing you did? clean
19. What are you wearing? jeans
20. Your TV? off
21. Your pet? dogs
22. Your computer? laptop
23 Your life? good
24. Your mood? tired
25. Missing someone? brother
26. Your car? great!
27. Something you're not wearing? bikini!
28. Favorite Store? Wal-Mart
29. Your summer? busy
30. Favorite color? blue
31. When is the last time you laughed? dinner
32. Last time you cried? weekend
33. Who will/would re-post this? friends

Monday, December 1, 2008

Eggnog Custard Pie

If you like custard, you'll love this pie. Making something different for Thanksgiving has become a goal of mine each year. I made the traditional pies too, both pecan pie and pumpkin pie (see below). For something a little different, I've started making the pecan pie chocolate, but that is hardly radical! But this year, I wanted something completely different than the usual choices and this recipe was just the thing. And because of the eggnog, this pie is good for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Eggnog Custard Pie

1 (9-inch) unbaked piecrust
2 cups eggnog
3 eggs
2 tablespoons brandy or rum (optional)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. brandy, rum or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prick holes in bottom of pie crust. Bake 15 minutes till partially cooked.

To make filling, beat eggnog, eggs, brandy or rum (if using), and vanilla in large bowl. Add sugar, salt and nutmeg. Mix well. Pour into pie crust.

Bake for 25 minutes then cover with foil and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean (center will be a bit soft, this is ok as long as the knife comes out clean).

To make topping, beat whipping cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Add confectioners' sugar and brandy or rum. Beat until stiff peaks form. Garnish pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. Serves 8.

"We never make sport of religion, politics, race or mothers. A mother never gets hit with a custard pie. Mothers-in-law-yes. But mothers-never."
-Mack Sennett