Merry Christmas 2014!

Merry Christmas friends! May you feel the warmth, love, and hope of today’s true meaning.

In Him,
Kristin

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Cookies for Santa (and Mrs. Claus!)

Christmas is almost here! Do you know what you’ll be putting out for Santa to enjoy? I’ve got two very easy recipe for you, should you need them (and don’t we all need extra cookies recipes in our repertoire?).

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The first cookie could not be any easier! I’m sure you’ve tried these at least once in your life. They are no-bake chocolate, oatmeal, and peanut butter cookies. The best of everything!

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

2 C sugar

4 T cocoa (using dark cocoa really changes the flavor and makes them so decadent!)

1/2 C butter (1 stick)

1/2 C milk (I used coconut milk)

1 C peanut butter

1 T vanilla

3 C oatmeal

Bring sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk to a boil. Let it boil for about 1 minute. Add peanut butter, vanilla, and oatmeal. Drop spoonfuls onto a prepared sheet pan (waxed paper or Silpat). Let them cool and harden (you can do this in the refrigerator).

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They are as equally good freshly plopped onto the pan…

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…as they are from the refrigerator or freezer.

The second cookie is not as easy, because it is a baked cookie, but is equally delicious and completely customizable.

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They are a basic brown sugar cookie with chocolate chips, M&M’s, and sprinkles. All in Christmas colors! I think Santa will be back for seconds (if you ask me, and I would know, wink wink).

Santa’s Chocolate Chip, M&M’s, and Sprinkle Cookies

Recipe adapted from: “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie”, http://www.dinnersdishesanddesserts.com

3/4 C softened butter

3/4 C brown sugar

1/4 C sugar

1 egg

2 t vanilla

1 T vanilla bean paste

2 C flour

2 t cornstarch

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 C chocolate chips

3/4 C M&M’s (I picked out the red and green ones)

1/4 C sprinkles (I used Christmas colors)

Cream butter and both sugars together, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and vanilla bean paste. Add flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, M&M’s, and sprinkles.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes. I covered it, and left it in the fridge overnight. I had to let it thaw a bit before baking. Chilling the dough makes for a thicker cookie.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Scoop out dough. I rolled mine into balls. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool on the sheet pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

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These were just a really fun take on the classic chocolate chip cookie, which goes over well with almost everyone I know. And to be honest, I’m not sure I want to know you if a chocolate chip cookie doesn’t go over well with you. #nooffense #moreforme

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My boys loved helping with these, especially knowing that “Santa” would be enjoying them (and indeed SHE will). They dumped in all the chocolate and sprinkles.

Enjoy! Only a few days left to get your baking on!

Kristin (aka Mrs. Claus, aka Cookie Queen)

Christmas Sugar Cookies (and decorating with my boys!)

I made sugar cookies with my boys yesterday. They’re finally at the age where they can do it “properly” and enjoy it. Did I say “they”? I meant that my four and a half year old can do that. My two year old ate every sprinkle that crossed his path. And that was a lot of sprinkles. Enough to dye his mouth green for the duration of the day.

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I only needed about 30 cookies for my church group ladies and this recipe made more than that. I gave each boy their own little sheet of dough, pan, and apron, and set up the cookie cutters and sprinkles.

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Bigs sort of had an accident with the green sugar. Instead of opening the sprinkle cap, he unscrewed and dumped. Oops.

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I think he’d call this a “happy” accident. It all worked out. They had so much fun and their little cookies were so cute.

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They enjoyed eating them with big glasses of (coconut) milk.

While their cookies were baking, I got to work on mine.

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I wanted to do simple cookies this year. I used a star, Christmas tree, and sleigh cutters, and made thumbprints.

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I decorated them using my gold and silver sugars…

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…green sugars, and Christmas colored nonpareils.

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I have no idea what this thumbprint cookie is all about. I just went with it. If you squint, it could be a wreath-like thing.

Whatever, it’s a cookie.

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I love the way they came out! And, as equally important, they were delicious! I think my church gals will really enjoy them.

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These cookies are sturdy, but not overly-crunchy, and filled with vanilla and almond flavors. I added vanilla bean paste to amp up the vanilla flavor. I love seeing black speckles of vanilla beans in desserts.

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To me, they taste of Christmas!

Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookies

Adapted from: Perfect Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs, lovegrowswild.com

  • 1 C unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1¼ C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ t vanilla extract
  • 1 T vanilla bean paste
  • ½ t almond extract
  • 3 C of flour
  • 1½ t baking powder
  • ¼ t salt
  • colored sugars and nonpareils
  • cookie icing, if desired
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in egg, vanilla extract, almond extract, and vanilla bean paste and mix until combined.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until completely combined.
  3. Roll the dough between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper and place on a baking sheet in the refrigerator. Chill for about 20-30 minutes.
  4. Cut dough into shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to a baking sheet. I prepared my baking sheets with parchment paper. Sprinkle with colored sugars and nonpareils and bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet 5 minutes, then transfer to a baking rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 40-50 cookies, depending on your cutter size.

Enjoy!

Kristin

Snowman Cupcakes

What a sweet week it’s been! And it’s not over yet. I’ve got more baking to do. So far this week, I’ve made Christmas Crack Candy, Christmas Chocolate Cake, Christmas Tree Brownies, and lastly, for now, Snowman Cupcakes!

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I took the semi-homemade route, again, this time. So, these were pretty easy. Sort of. I’ll get to that. But if you plan to make them, they will be easy.

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Aren’t they darling? I was in charge of dessert for my Bigs’ class’ birthday party for Jesus today. I thought about going the Jesus/religious symbol route when it came to decorating, but I was nervous about the kids having to eat Baby Jesus. It could go all kinds of wrong. I’ve seen some cute Jesus decorations, but knowing me, I’d make a disaster out of it.

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So, I decided on snowmen.

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I like the way they came out. I really enjoyed making these.

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And just like real snowmen, they each have their own little personalities*.

*decorating inconsistencies

These cheerful cupcakes were delicate and had a soft crumb, were rich in chocolate flavor (thanks boxed mix!), and covered in a delicious, fluffy, marshmallow-y frosting. The crushed peppermint added a refreshing, festive flavor. These were a hit!

Snowman Cupcakes

1 box of your favorite cake mix (or one batch of homemade) – I used chocolate

ingredients used to make cupcakes

silver cupcake wrappers (other Christmassy ones would be cute too)

1 batch of 7 Minute Frosting (recipe below)

candy canes, crushed (I crushed up 12, but didn’t need it all)

Wilton Icing Decorations, snowman variety

Follow the directions on your cake mix box and bake cupcakes, as directed. Let them cool completely. You can expedite this process by placing the cupcakes in the freezer or refrigerator.

While those are cooling, make your 7 Minute Frosting (recipe, directions, and a short story below). I iced the cupcakes using a swirled effect, to make them look peppermint-y. If you want to do that, you’ll need to paint a stripe of food coloring (I used Americolor Red gel) on the inside of your icing bag, before filling it with the frosting.

Once the cupcakes were iced with the swirled frosting, I sprinkled them with the crushed candy canes, and placed one of the Wilton Icing Decorations on top.

I ended up making the frosting twice.

7 Minute Frosting – Recipe #1

Source: Paula Deen, Food Network.com

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 tablespoon white corn syrup (I used white corn syrup)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
I have made this dozens of times before, and it’s always turned out beautifully, but ran into a problem this time. I used the white corn syrup, while I usually use the cream of tartar. I had both on hand, so I’m not sure why I chose the syrup. Anyways, it didn’t set up and the sugar didn’t fully melt. It was a grainy, soupy mess. And I know that my boiling water wasn’t touching the bottom of the glass bowl on my double boiler. Ohhhh wellllll.
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I tried a different recipe for the second batch. I actually used a recipe I hadn’t used before and it worked out perfectly.
Fluffy White Frosting – Recipe #2
Source: allrecipes.com
1 C white sugar
1/3 C water
1/4 t cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1 t vanilla extract

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, water and cream of tartar. Cook over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbly.

 

In a medium mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and vanilla to soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar mixture while whipping constantly until stiff peaks form, about 7 to 10 minutes.
I’m sure that either one you choose will work out fine. I’d stick with the cream of tartar though. That one always works for me. #nowiknow #lessonlearned #themoreyouknow
Since I only needed a dozen cupcakes, I had a little fun with my leftover batter.
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I baked a mini chocolate bundt cake. Then, I filled the hole with the red swirled marshmallow frosting (the good batch), sprinkled crushed peppermints on top, took a few pictures of it, then ate it, off of my “Cookies for Santa” plate. It was good. I had to test my product before it left my kitchen. Bakers and Chefs, you know this. It’s an important part of the process. I did this for you.
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I happen to know that Santa loves his (or her) cookies, but would not turn down this sweet little bundt cake, if you left it out for him (or her).
Blessings!
Kristin

Heavenly Host(ess) with the Mostess VPK School Lunch

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9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

In continued celebration of our Savior’s birth story, I came up with this angel themed lunch for my Bigs. I used my angel cookie cutter on a PB&J, and added yellow details (halo, wings, dress) with my Food Writer and sprayed this most important angel gold. I packed goldfish crackers, raisins, red, white, and green chocolate covered sunflower seeds, apple slices, half a mandarin orange, some red grapes, and an organic yogurt squeezy.

This is my last Christmas themed school lunch for this year. I’ll be doing fun “home” lunches from here on out!

May you feel the warmth of this heavenly story,

Kristin

Christmas Tree Brownies

As you may (or may not) know, I’ve been a baking fool this week (in my defense, a “fool” isn’t all bad! for you non-Anglophiles out there, it’s also an English dessert made from a mixture of pureed fruit that has been folded into whipped cream.). I’ve made something each day and I’m so excited about these next two (SUPER easy!) recipes that I’m going to be sharing with you all!

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Today’s recipe is not only stupidly easy, but adorable. It might be my favorite. It’s SO cute. I also love that this recipe can be changed around, so easily, for any kind of color scheme you want, or even just to use the decorating supplies you have on hand (I happen to be a decorating hoarder).

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Christmas Tree Brownies

1 box of brownie mix (or one batch of your favorite homemade recipe)

1 packet of green cookie decorating icing

1 packet of white Wilton Candy Melts (mine had sprinkles in them, a bonus for these!)

various sprinkles (I used multi colored nonpareils and star shaped sprinkles)

1 13×9 pan

Christmas tree shaped cookie cutter

Prepare your brownie mix as directed and pour into a greased 13×9 pan. Bake as directed. I baked for a little bit less time because my pan was very shallow. Let it cool completely, once baked.

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Place waxed paper on your counter top, under your cooling rack. Use your cookie cutter to cut out the desired amount of trees. Mine made 11 trees, with lots of scraps (you know, for snacking or whatever). Place on top of the cooling rack. Use your green cookie icing to make stripes on your trees. There is no wrong way to do this! Repeat with your Candy Melts (I melted mine in the microwave in a microwave safe bowl, using 30 second increments, until fully melted). The Candy Melts look like fresh-fallen snow on these beautiful trees. Add your sprinkles in any pattern (or none at all!) that you wish. When I added the star atop the tree, I first added a small dollop of the green icing, to act as glue.

Place in the fridge and package up, if desired.

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These came out SO cute and I think my Bigs’ classmates will really enjoy them.

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I hope you give these a try! Enjoy!

Kristin

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…cake!

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So, I told you I made cake. Remember that? I’m sure you do. I mean, if you told me that you made a cake, I would not forget. Cake isn’t a flippant thought in my mind. Anywhoooo…

Isn’t this a sight to behold? A thing of beauty? A real looker? I used one of my two go-to chocolate cake recipes, this one being the one-bowl selection. To decorate, I chopped up those magical Ferrero Rocher candies (I used a pack of twelve, four each of three flavors, for this 9×13 sized cake). I distributed those around the edge of this beast and sprinkled some Christmas nonpareils on top.

wpid-20141209_134643.jpgSure, my butter wasn’t fully softened and left little chunks in the frosting. Can’t win them all. But hey, when were chunks of rich, creamy butter a bad thing, in a rich, creamy chocolate frosting? Maybe you CAN win them all.

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This cake is incredibly moist and the frosting equally smooth. It’s a winning combo, especially with the addition of Ferrero Rocher chocolates. I realize this sounds like a sponsored ad, but it isn’t. Although, Ferrero Rocher, if you’re listening, I’m up for sponsorship. #pleasesponsorme #anyone #anyone? My Bible study ladies seemed to really enjoy it. I know I did!

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I mean, lookee.

Here’s the original recipe:

http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/06/one-bowl-chocolate-cake-made-from-scratch.html

And the frosting recipe:

http://myrecipemagic.com/recipe/recipedetail/moms-chocolate-frosting-the-best-frosting-recipe

I also made lunches for my boys (obvi).

For my Bigs:

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It’s a wreath-shaped PB&J and a teeny little gingerbread-shaped PB&J. I also packed colby jack cheese, a few pretzels, half a mandarin orange, a few apple slices, and some of that freaking good cake. I promised my Bigs that I’d try to save him a piece. He’ll be so happy to have it. I also sprinkled on a few red, green, and white chocolate covered sunflower seeds just because. Unfortunately, he got sick in the middle of the night, so he’ll be enjoying this from home today. (if you think of it, say a little prayer for his recovery? he’s got a Christmas performance at school tomorrow that I know he’d really be sad to miss being a part of – thank you!)

And for my Smalls:

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For him, I packed a PB&J in the shaped of a little tree and a little gingerbread boy (which I’ve ruined with a big ol’ face, but he won’t notice), colby jack cheese, apple slices, half a mandarin orange, honey-roasted peanuts, and a few of the chocolate covered sunflower seeds for his little dessert.

Many blessings to you!

Kristin