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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Thick and Rich Homemade Hot Cocoa…

Can I just brag for a second? Because, um….I nailed it. I set out to make a rich, thick, chocolaty homemade hot cocoa and I. Freaking. Nailed. It. Ok, bragging done.

Joel and I are both huge fans of hot cocoa, but lately, I’ve found myself wanting more than just the powdery packet mixed with milk. Even though I normally add a candy cane and a giant marshmallow, I always end up wanting something more. I don’t know why in the world I haven’t made homemade hot cocoa before, but I can assure you, I will NOT be going back to the packets. Ever. This hot cocoa is velvety, thick, insanely rich and out-of-this-world chocolaty. I’m in love.

Thick and Rich Homemade Hot Cocoa

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
4 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips work fine too)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 scant teaspoon instant coffee powder or espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the milk, chocolate, sugar, salt and coffee powder in a small saucepan over medium heat until the chocolate is completely melted and everything is combined. Stir in the vanilla. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off and let the hot cocoa sit (still covered) for 5 minutes before serving to allow it to thicken. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

**Some of you might want to thin it out with a little extra milk or water- it’s VERY rich! ;)

Recipe source: Sing For Your Supper original

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Soft and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies…

I hope everyone enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving with friends and family! We sure did! Although, I learned the hard way that being 8 months pregnant and eating one’s weight in turkey and dressing (and cranberry sauce…and mashed potatoes…and green bean casserole…and 3 kinds of pie…) isn’t the smartest idea (I literally thought I was going to pop!). Instead of being sociable with the rest of the women, I snoozed with the men folk in front of the TV. It was worth it, though- I LOVE Thanksgiving food!

But now it’s onto more important things, like baking Christmas goodies! I couldn’t wait to get home, get in my kitchen and start baking! I made these gingerbread cookies a couple of years ago, but rolled them out into gingerbread men and decorated them. As fun as that was, I’m not a fan of having to wait for the dough to chill, then roll it out, then cut out the shapes…then repeat 10 times. This time, all I wanted was a chewy, spicy gingerbread cookie I could bake in minutes and enjoy right away! And these are sooooo good! Especially if you’re a huge gingerbread cookie fan like I am! They’re crispy around the edges but have a wonderful chewiness that’s downright addicting! I think I polished off about 6 of these in one sitting! I have tons of leftover dough, so I know I’ll be baking lots more of these in the coming weeks!

Soft and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 egg
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; about 1 minute. Add the egg and molasses and combine.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Slowly and gradually blend into the butter mixture until smooth.

Using a cookie scoop or a spoon, scoop dough out into 1 1/2 inch rounds onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Space cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

Recipe source: adapted from allrecipes.com

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A Very Merry Christmas!!!

…from my family to yours! I hope you all enjoy safe, wonderful, and happy holidays!

Love,

Amy, Joel and Izzy

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Quick and Easy Peppermint Brownies…

You may remember a different batch of minty brownies I did a while back, but I decided just one recipe wasn’t enough! With Christmas being JUST around the corner, I’ve sure been seeing a good amount of peppermint brownie recipes floating around the blogosphere. Since I just can’t resist the chocolate/peppermint combination, I decided I needed to make a batch. However, I was in a hurry and cheated by starting with a box mix (judge all you want to but personally, I think the boxed kind are some of the best; especially when you’re in a hurry!), then added my beloved candy cane flour to the mix and sprinkled crushed peppermint over the top. Delicious. Christmasy. Just what we needed that night! And quick, to boot!

Peppermint Brownies

1 box brownie mix (or your favorite brownie recipe), prepared according to the box, but not yet baked
**1/3 cup candy cane flour
1/2 cup crushed peppermint, for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×9 pan. Stir in the candy cane flour. Pour into greased pan and sprinkle with the 1/2 cup crushed peppermint. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Sprinkle with more crushed peppermint, if desired. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

**Basically, when you crush your peppermint, sift out the fine powder (or ‘candy cane flour’, as I call it), and you’ll be left with enough to mix into the batter.

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Cinnamon Pound Cake…

If you love cinnamon, be sure to bookmark this recipe because it’s just bursting with it! This cake is one of my very favorite things around Christmas (and winter)- my mom used to make it every single Christmas and the whole family loved it. Now my sister and I both make it for our own families every Christmas. It’s wonderful for parties if you don’t want to take the same old cookies or candy, but still want something quick and easy (and of course impressive).

This cake is incredibly moist and just FULL of warm cinnamon flavor; a real treat during the holidays! Perfect after a delicious meal with a cup of hot coffee. If you’re looking for that perfect Christmas morning breakfast treat, this would be delicious! And it keeps beautifully, so feel free to make it a day or two before! This cake is Christmas to me and I just love it. In fact, I’ve posted it before, but it was a looong time ago and the pictures were just awful. I decided to feature it again, so that it might get the attention it deserves! Thanks Mommy, for a delicious recipe! :)

Cinnamon Pound Cake
-my mom’s recipe (I’m not sure where she got it from originally)

4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 yellow butter cake mix (don’t use white cake mix – it has to be butter)
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup canola oil
1  8-ounce container sour cream
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan.
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and sprinkle half of the mixture in the greased bundt pan – shake it all around to coat the entire pan. Mix cake mix with pudding, oil, sour cream, eggs and other half of cinnamon/sugar mixture. Pour into pan and bake for 45 – 50 minutes until springy. Cool for 20 minutes before taking out of pan.

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Christmas Cookie Fail (yes, another one…)

Yep. I’ve done it again. Severe cookie fail. For your information, it is QUITE hard to use a cookie press if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s your first time. I learned this the hard way. My spatula broke. These cookies BROKE my spatula. My grilled cheese spatula.

However, I fully intend to get the hang of this cookie press business….eventually.

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My Favorite Christmas Cookies…

Cookies are such a huge part of Christmas. They’re fun to bake, fun to decorate, fun to take to parties, to give to your friends, to leave for Santa and most importantly, fun to eat! I feel like I’m baking cookies constantly these days, just because I enjoy being in my kitchen so much at Christmastime! Here’s a list of my most cherished (most delicious!) Christmas cookie recipes. Whether you’re looking for that perfect cookie to leave for Santa (a very big decision!), need a recipe for your cookie exchange or you’ve got a major Christmas cookie craving and need a cookie QUICK, this list is for you!

Monster Cookies - full of oats, peanut butter and M&Ms, these are always on my Christmas cookie list! However, the recipe makes a floppity-gillion cookies, so you’ll most likely need to half the recipe. Unless you’re hosting a party for all of Connecticut.

Chocolate Mint Puddles – soft, chewy, minty and oh-so chocolaty. I adore these!

Peppermint Kisses – my new favorite Christmas cookie! I took Dorie Greenspan’s delicious sugar cookie recipe and dressed it up with a little peppermint and white chocolate…absolutely irresistible!

Soft and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies – I’m not a fan of crunchy gingerbread cookies, so these are right up my alley! Soft and chewy, with just the right amount of spice- and GREAT for decorating!

Peppermint Chocolate Truffles – these aren’t technically cookies, but they’re so delicious and easy to make that I just had to share them! These would look just gorgeous on a big platter for your next party- they’re so pretty!

M&M Cookies – these are the cookies my sister and I always left for Santa. Even though my dad kept suggesting we leave buttermilk pie for Santa (why would we do that?!), we always knew that Santa would have preferred these. ;)

Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Cookies – these are rolled in crushed peppermints and baked, so they have a wonderful, chewy crunch to them! A HUGE hit with my coworkers!

I hope you’re able to find a recipe or two you’d like to try this Christmas- they’re all husband, kid and coworker tested (and approved!), so I know they’ll be sure to impress! MERRY CHRISTMAS and happy baking!

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Chocolate Mint Puddles, Revisited…

Prepare yourself for the world’s most delicious cookie! I’ve made these every Christmas for over 4 years now…they’re SO good! In fact, they’ve been featured on here before, but they were included in a post with 3 other types of cookies, so I decided to revisit them and give them their very own post! They deserve it! They’re originally called Chocolate Peppermint Cookies or something like that, but I changed the name to ‘Chocolate Mint Puddles’ a few years back because I thought it was totally fitting (it must have caught on too, because since then, I’ve seen quite a few bloggers adopt the name too!). If you’re a chocolate/mint addict like me, you’ll absolutely love these. They’re a bit more work than the average cookie, but totally worth it! Make these for your next cookie exchange or party- everyone will go nuts for them!

Chocolate Mint Puddles
-allrecipes.com

3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 (4.5 ounce) packages chocolate covered thin mints (Andes mints)

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the sugar, butter and water, stirring occasionally until melted. Remove from heat, stir in the chocolate chips until melted and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl, and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the chocolate mixture. Cover and refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets. Roll cookie dough into walnut sized balls and place 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, be careful not to overbake. When cookies come out of the oven, Press one mint wafer into the top of each cookie and let sit for 1 minute. When the mint is softened, swirl with the back of a spoon or toothpick to make a pattern with the green filling of the mint wafer. For smaller cookies, break mints in half.

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Oreo Peppermint Bark…

Joel and I sort of have an unhealthy addiction to Oreos. We love them. We even had an Oreo bar with a milk fountain at our wedding. :) Yep, addicted. Which is why I use Oreos in baking/candy making every chance I get. Especially the holiday Oreos- the orange filled ones at Halloween, the pastel ones at Easter/Spring and the red ones at Christmas- which I what I used for this Oreo peppermint bark (at Joel’s suggestion). We had a big party with all of our friends last weekend and I made a big tray of this stuff- it was a huge hit! People can’t resist peppermint bark around the holidays anyway…add crushed up Oreos to the mix and they REALLY can’t resist it! I’ll definitely be making this year after year!

I was giddy at finding this giant block of Ghiradelli candy making chocolate at Sam’s! I see lots more candy making in my future!

Oreo Peppermint Bark
-Sing For Your Supper original

1 pound dark chocolate bark
1 pound white chocolate almond bark
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
10 Oreos, roughly chopped (I used the festive holiday ones!)
1/2 cup crushed peppermints

Melt the dark chocolate bark in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between. Pour out onto a large sheet of wax paper and smooth it out into one even (thin) layer with a spatula (an offset spatula works perfectly for this). Let sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes, until hardened. Next, melt the white chocolate bark.
When the chocolate is hardened, stir the peppermint extract into the melted white chocolate bark. Pour over the dark chocolate layer and spread out evenly to the edges with a spatula.
Sprinkle the Oreos and crushed peppermints in an even layer over the top. Let sit until completely dried and hardened, about 20 or 30 minutes.
Break into pieces and serve. Enjoy!

**As always, feel free to use regular dark and white chocolate instead of bark (candy coating). I just prefer to use it because it dries so quickly and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.


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