This Christmas is VERY Merry!

beskow snow

Hello there! I apologize (sort of…not really) for the super long hiatus I’ve been on! The months of November and December have been action-packed, to say the least. And it isn’t to say I haven’t wanted to post over the last few weeks, because believe me, I really, really have! But since I no longer have a reason to keep quiet….here goes! We are experiencing our own little Christmas miracle this year–

that’s right: Baby #2 is on the way!!! Cassidy is going to be a big sister and we are THRILLED. I’m 12 weeks along and due late June/early July. And of course, feeling rotten. ;) Actually, the rotten part is (hopefully) almost done. I was pretty sick for awhile (i.e. the first 2 months) and had NO desire to eat food, think about food, or blog about food. It’s still not great, especially at night, but I really feel like I’m on the downhill slide.

We’ve talked to Cassidy about her new brother or sister, but I don’t think she quite getting it. We’ve got 6 months to get her used to the idea, though, and I’m sure she’ll start getting curious as soon as I start showing a lot more.

So now you know the reason for my disappearance. Thanks to those of you who missed me and sent me messages to check on me- that was greatly appreciated! After the holidays I hope to get back into blogging and back to a more normal version of myself (who knows, maybe I’ll even find the energy to change out of my pajama pants every now and then!). Until then, I want to wish you all a VERY merry Christmas and a happy New Year! Have a wonderful time with your friends and families and don’t forget the real reason we celebrate each year!

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Pretzel-Kiss Sandwiches…

Pretzel Kiss Sandwiches 3

Who’s ready for Halloween??! Every single year, I’m always tempted to say Halloween is my favorite holiday, but Christmas always wins out. However, Halloween comes in at a VERY close 2nd! I absolutely love decorating the house (most importantly, dragging out all of my ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ paraphernalia), but this year was even more fun than usual, because Cassidy helped me this time around. She had so much fun dragging pumpkins and other goodies out of the big boxes and saying, “cuuuuuute!” every time I’d hang something up. We had a blast together!

Pretzel Kiss Sandwiches

We’ve all had so much fun watching our favorite Halloween movies and eating snacks together- this seriously is just the greatest holiday. Speaking of snacks- here’s a super duper quick and easy one (and DARN addictive, I might add!). No party or gathering (or movie-watching night!) is complete without these little guys. All you need is pretzels and Hershey’s Hugs- that’s it! So little effort for so much yumminess! Plus, the kids could probably help with this one; I’m sure Cassidy will be a big help the next time I make these. ;)

Pretzel-Kiss Sandwiches

1 bag Pretzel snaps (such as Synder’s)
2 bags Hershey’s Hugs (I also used some of the caramel-filled Hershey’s Kisses and they worked great as well)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a large baking sheet with wax paper. Lay the pretzels down in an even layer on the baking sheet and top each one with a hug. Put the baking sheet in the oven for 2 minutes, until the hugs get glossy-looking.

Remove from oven and let sit for 1 minute. Gently place another pretzel on top of each hug, making a sandwich. Don’t push down too hard, or the hug will ooze out everywhere. Leave at room temperature to cool completely and harden- about 30 minutes to an hour. You could also pop them in the fridge to speed up the hardening process. Place in a big bowl and enjoy!

Recipe source: Cookies and Cups

Pretzel Kiss Sandwiches 2

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Merry Christmas to All!

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We wish ALL of you a happy, warm, joyful Christmas filled with good food, good friends/family, and good cheer!

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Love,

Joel, Amy, Cassidy, and Izzy

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Chocolate-Dipped Orange Sables…

Chocolate-Dipped Orange Sables

One last Christmas cookie post before the big day!

There are only 4 1/2 days till Christmas! How exciting! My baby’s first Christmas…..we absolutely CANNOT wait! I know she probably won’t have a clue what’s going on, but Mommy and Daddy will be brimming with excitement to witness our baby girl opening presents under the Christmas tree!

Anyway, I just had to post one more cookie recipe before I take off for the holiday fun. And let me tell you, this one is a KEEPER! Crisp, crumbly, buttery shortbread flecked with bright, citrusy orange peel, then dipped in luxurious dark chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt. OMG so amazingly good! (P.S. sable is the french word for shortbread). If you still have parties to go to, or perhaps want to leave Santa something a little more special this year, by all means, this cookie is for you!

Chocolate-Dipped Orange Sables 3

Chocolate-Dipped Orange Sables

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
zest of 2 large oranges
2 cups melted dark chocolate, for dipping (you can use chips, or chop your own)

Working in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until it is smooth and very creamy. Add the sugar, salt, and orange zest and continue to beat until smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the egg yolks and almond extract, again beating until well blended.

Turn off the mixer, pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and pulse the mixer about 5 times at low speed for 1 or 2 seconds each time. Take a peek; if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, stir for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. If you still have some flour on the bottom of the bowl, stop mixing and use a rubber spatula to work the rest of it into the dough. (The dough will not come together in a ball — and it shouldn’t. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you’re aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy dough. When pinched, it should feel a little like Play-Doh.)

Scrape the dough onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long (it’s easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log). Wrap the logs well and chill them for at least 2 hours. The dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Trim the ends of the roll if they are ragged and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies.

Place the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each cookie, and bake for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the halfway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top. Let the cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully lifting them onto a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula. Repeat with the remaining log of dough. (Make sure the sheet is cool before baking each batch.)

When the cookies are cool, dip each cookie (I like to just dip half of the cookie since white chocolate can be a bit rich) in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt. Makes about 50 cookies.

Recipe source: sable recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan; the orange-chocolate idea is a Sing For Your Supper original

Chocolate-Dipped Orange Sables 2

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Pistachio-Cranberry Shortbread Cookies…

pistachio cranberry shortbreads

So far this Christmas season, I’ve been really proud of myself as far as branching out goes. Every year it seems I bake the same cookies, cakes, and snacks. I have lists and lists of awesome sounding recipes I’ve been wanting to try, yet I still end up making the same old things. Not that there’s anything wrong with a great standby, but you gotta be adventurous, right? I looooove shortbread and I looooove the combination of pistachios and cranberries; and that’s exactly how these cookies were born!

pistachio cranberry shortbreads 3

I recently mentioned that I baked these for our Christmas party (along with these Soft Almond Sugar Cookies), but I didn’t go into any detail. Well, let me tell you what a HIT these were! People kept going back and forth between these and the almond cookies trying to figure out their favorite, but I feel like these were the clear winner. I think it was the white chocolate that did it. ;) These were so incredibly EASY! Great taste, great appearance, great method. GREAT Christmas cookie.

Pistachio-Cranberry Shortbread Cookies

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably sea salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup chopped pistachios
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
2 cups melted white chocolate chips, for dipping (optional)

Working in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until it is smooth and very creamy. Add the sugar and salt and continue to beat until smooth and velvety, not fluffy and airy, about 1 minute. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the egg yolks and vanilla, again beating until well blended.

Turn off the mixer, pour in the flour, drape a kitchen towel over the mixer and pulse the mixer about 5 times at low speed for 1 or 2 seconds each time. Take a peek; if there is still a lot of flour on the surface of the dough, pulse a couple of more times; if not, remove the towel. Continuing at low speed, stir for about 30 seconds more, just until the flour disappears into the dough and the dough looks uniformly moist. If you still have some flour on the bottom of the bowl, stop mixing and use a rubber spatula to work the rest of it into the dough. (The dough will not come together in a ball — and it shouldn’t. You want to work the dough as little as possible. What you’re aiming for is a soft, moist, clumpy dough. When pinched, it should feel a little like Play-Doh.) Stir in the pistachios and cranberries.

Scrape the dough onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a smooth log about 9 inches long (it’s easiest to work on a piece of plastic wrap and use the plastic to help form the log). Wrap the logs well and chill them for at least 2 hours. The dough may be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Trim the ends of the roll if they are ragged and slice the log into 1/3-inch-thick cookies.

Place the rounds on the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each cookie, and bake for 17 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet at the halfway point. When properly baked, the cookies will be light brown on the bottom, lightly golden around the edges and pale on top. Let the cookies rest 1 or 2 minutes before carefully lifting them onto a cooling rack with a wide metal spatula. Repeat with the remaining log of dough. (Make sure the sheet is cool before baking each batch.)

When the cookies are cool, dip each cookie (I like to just dip half of the cookie since white chocolate can be a bit rich) in the melted white chocolate and place on wax paper. Makes about 50 cookies.

Recipe source: sable (shortbread) recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan; pistachio-cranberry-white chocolate idea is a Sing For Your Supper original

pistachio cranberry shortbreads 2

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Soft and Chewy Almond Sugar Cookies…

Ho, ho, ho! Santa Claus is coming soon- do you know which cookies you’ll be baking for him? We sure do! Normally, I’d be baking these M&M Cookies, a Christmas tradition in our family, but this year, I’ve decided on a new favorite! These soft, chewy, sugary cookies with a gloriously subtle and delicate almond flavor, and sparkly, crunchy sugar all over the outside…..WHAT. A. COOKIE! We hosted a Christmas party this weekend and I transformed into a baking fiend. I baked these amazing almond cookies, my favorite M&M cookies mentioned above, and shortbreads with pistachios, cranberries, and white chocolate (can’t wait to share those with you!). They were all amazing, but my hands-down favorite were these soft almond cookies.

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of anything with almond extract, but I decided to make these anyway, because my big sis loves it. I’m so glad I took a chance! Not only are these beautiful, they’re downright DE-licious! Try them this Christmas! Santa Claus will thank you! :)

Soft and Chewy Almond Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups cake flour**
1 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

coarse decorating sugar, for rolling the cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream sugar and butter.  Stir in eggs, almond extract, and vanilla. Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and add to butter/egg mixture.

Form dough into walnut sized balls and roll in decorating sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheet and press down to flatten slightly. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Bake for 8 minutes; cookies should not brown much at all- do not overbake.

**If you don’t have cake flour, all purpose will work fine

Recipe source: adapted from Confections from the Cody Kitchen

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Merry Christmas!

We hope you have a wonderful, merry Christmas and a happy New Year! We certainly have a lot to look forward to this January!!! Enjoy lots of yummy food and homemade goodies and being with family and friends!

Love,

Amy, Joel, Izzy and Cassidy (coming soon!)

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip…

Going to a party soon? Need something quick, easy and delicious to bring along? I highly recommend this chocolate chip cookie dough dip! I mean, who doesn’t love cookie dough? It’s a big-time crowd pleaser, it’s easy and it can be ready in no time! I took this to a friend’s party this past weekend and it was a huge hit! I’m telling ya…you need to make this!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips, plus extra for sprinkling

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar until it dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble. Stir in vanilla and set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar together for 60 seconds. With the mixer on low speed, add in brown sugar and butter mixture, then the salt. Mix until combined. Stir in the mini chocolate chips.

Garnish with additional mini chocolate chips. Serve with animal crackers, nilla wafers or graham crackers.

Recipe source: barely adapted from What Megan’s Making; originally from How Sweet It Is

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Bars…

There’s officially less than a week until Christmas! Where has the time gone?! I feel like I didn’t get to take part in quite as much Christmas baking as I wanted to this year, but under the circumstances, I think I did pretty ok! I have about a month until Cassidy’s due date and have officially reached the “beached whale” point of my pregnancy. Joel is really enjoying making jokes at my expense (at least he makes up for them in foot rubs!). I think the month is going to absolutely FLY by and she’ll be here before we know it! We’re pretty darn anxious to meet her, too! :)

We had a party this weekend and I wanted to make something really delicious to munch on besides my usual M&M cookies for dessert. By now, you’re all well aware of my undying love for Pinterest, and naturally, that’s where I went for Christmas goodie inspiration! I’ve had my eye on these salted caramel pecan bars for weeks now and couldn’t wait to make them! I’ve made the famous Saltine Cracker Toffee, which we all loved and this is very similar. It’s sugary sweet with a nice toastiness from the pecans and a subtle saltiness that I just LOVE! All in all, a big hit at the party! Oh, and super easy to throw together, too!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Bars

1 cup chopped pecans
12 whole graham crackers
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Arrange graham crackers in a single layer in prepared pan, slightly overlapping edges.

Combine sugar, butter, and cream in a medium-size heavy saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and continue to cook until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla and pecans. Pour butter mixture over crackers, spreading to coat.

Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let sit for 5 minutes until chocolate is melted, then spread evenly over the caramel layer. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool. Chill for at least 30 minutes, then break or cut into pieces when ready to serve. Makes about 40 pieces.

Recipe source: Eat. Drink. Smile.

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Coconut Pecan Sandies…

I know my posts have been a little more sparse lately and I apologize! Joel and I volunteered to sing with our hometown church choir’s Christmas program over the weekend, so the past few weeks have been extremely hectic! It was pretty cool getting to hear my daddy sing a solo, though! :)

With all the craziness going on lately I haven’t gotten much of a chance to do as much Christmas baking as I would’ve liked. However, I recently had a free afternoon and jumped on the chance to bake up something yummy and festive! These cookies are a version of my mom’s favorite Christmas cookies, Santa’s Whiskers, which normally have candied red and green cherries in them (so pretty!), but I didn’t have any on hand, so those will have to wait for another time! We decided these were very reminiscent of pecan sandies – very crunchy and shortbread-like in texture – and I added a healthy dose of cinnamon to give them a little more flavor. The edges of the cookies are rolled in coconut before baking, so the coconut flavor isn’t overpowering, but still very prominent. I think these would be awesome with a cup of hot cocoa- the perfect Christmastime treat!

Coconut Pecan Sandies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy; about 2 minutes. Blend in milk and vanilla.

Slowly stir in flour, salt, cinnamon and pecans. Form dough into 2 8-inch rolls and roll in the flaked coconut. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. Cut into 1/4 inch slices and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 11-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Makes approximately 40 cookies.

Recipe source: my mom (this is a very old family recipe, given to my mom just after she and my dad were married!)

P.S. Here’s a little tip- during all of your holiday baking this year, don’t forget to use real butter! Margarine or butter “spread” just won’t work as well as the real thing and you’ll most likely end up with flat cookies that spread too much. Real butter gives you a tender, flaky, more flavorful cookie that just can’t be equaled! Happy baking!

 

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