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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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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