Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Merry Christmas!

Also it's my birthday. 21 again! Can you believe it? I know you're busy today so any presents you were planning to drop off can certainly wait until tomorrow.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 12

Christmas Eve and our last cookie recipe! I'm sure your holiday baking is not over (I'm just getting started on our Christmas Eve snack-a-thon) so hopefully these come in handy!

I loved these cookies that Natalie made - they reminded me of Greek wedding cookies (complete with the choking death-fit that can come from inhaling the powdered sugar) but with a more delicate flavor from the lemon. Really really wonderful!

Lemon Cheesecake Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. lemon zest
2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Confectioner's sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375. Mix butter and cream cheese until creamy, blend in sugar. Add egg, zest and juice, mix well. Sift together flour and baking powder. Mix into butter on low speed.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and place on greased cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Bake until golden on bottom (about 12 minutes.) Let cool on wire rack and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

TIP: If you don't have a sieve to sprinkle the powdered sugar, my mother used to fill a large spoon with powdered sugar and tap it with another spoon. It made the perfect snowfall of powdered sugar.

And because you are oh-so-lucky, today you get TWO cookie recipes, this one from Tricia! This one would be fun to leave out for Santa tonight. Also if you're totally running out of time, I bet you could use a ready-made cookie (like a Lorna Doone shortbread) and dip them. Yum!

Santa's Skinny Dippers
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 pkg. Guittard chocolate chips
1 cups finely chopped pecans

Cream butter, brown sugar, flour and vanilla. Foll and flatten the dough into individual 2x1" ovals. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 325. Cool. Melt chocolate and dip cookies into it. Roll in nuts. Lay and let cool on parchment paper. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 11

The lovely Kelsey was the cookie contest winner for Best Cookie - and these little beauties were scrumptious! I barely got one or two because my son discovered them and ate almost all I had.

Gingersnap Sandwich Cookies with Lemon Buttercream Frosting
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. molasses
1/4 c. cold water
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. ground ginger
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/4 t. salt

3 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 t. grated lemon peel
3-4 t. lemon juice
3-4 t. milk

1. In large bowl, beat 1/2 c. butter and sugars with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses and water until blended (mixture may look curdled). On low speed, beat in flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, and salt. Divide dough in half; wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate about 2 hours or until chilled.

2. Heat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with cooking parchment paper. On well-floured surface, roll half of dough at a time to 1/8-inch thickness (keep remaining dough refrigerated). Cut with 2-inch round cookie cutter. Using large end of a piping tip or 1/2-inch round canape cutter, cut a hole in center of half of the cutouts. Carefully transfer to cookie sheets, placing 1/2 inch apart. Reroll scraps.

3. Bake 9-12 minutes or until set in center. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool copmletely, about 30 minutes.

4. In large bowl, beat frosting ingredients on medium speed until light and fluffy. Spread about 1 heaping teaspooon frosting on each whole cookie; top with cutout cookie. If desired, sprinkle additional grated lemon peel on frosting in center.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 10

Wow, Christmas is really creeping up on us, eh?

These bar cookies were so different and tasty - definitely something I had never had before. Chocolate and orange is one of my favorite flavor combinations. I think FoxyJ said these were her grandmother's own recipe and they're something I'll be making again.

Chocolate Refreshers
1 1/4 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup water
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. orange zest
2 tbsp. softened butter
2-3 tbsp milk

Heat oven to 350. Combine dates, brown sugar, butter and water in a pan and cook over low heat until butter melts and dates soften. Remove from heat and immediately stir in chocolate chips until melted. Cool for a few minutes and add eggs. Sift dry ingredients together and add to chcoolate mixture alternately with milk and orange juice. Bland thoroughly and add nuts. Pour into a greasted 15x10x2" (jelly roll size) pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool compltely and glaze. After glaze has set cut into bars.

Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 9

There is a great tutorial for these here!

Friday, December 18, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 8

Some of the cookie recipes have been a little labor-intensive. So lets have a simple one to start the weekend off right. These yummy cookies are as easy as - you guessed it - 1, 2, 3

1, 2, 3 Cookies
1 German Chocolate cake mix
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons water

Add eggs and water to dry cake mix. Stir with a fork until moistened. Sprinkle in nuts, Andes mint chips, crushed candy canes or chocolate chips. Form into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or until edges crack and cookie is set.

Wow, that was easy! And they're so delicious. I really can't get enough of these.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 7

I know you can buy your own gingerbread house kit from the store... but isn't it more fun to make your own (the answer is yes). So here's a fun family-night activity for you. For the truly ambitious, here is how to make your own gingerbread house. For the fainter of heart, gingerbread men are always fun. Last year I let my husband be in charge of the decorating table and we ended up with NBA All-Star gingerbread men, Masked Mexican Wrestler gingerbread men and even little missionaries in shirts and ties. He's an artist.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup water

Cream shortening and sugar. Sift flour with salt, soda and spices. Blend flour mixture into creamed mixture alternately with molasses and water. You should have a very firm dough. Chill at least 1 hour. Sometimes I make the dough the day before.

Roll your dough out to a desired thickness (about 1/4 inch). Cut your gingerbread men, or the shapes you need for your house. Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes (less for soft gingerbread men, more for crispier house walls). Cool and decorate (or assemble).

This year I'm planning on making gingerbread men to hang on the kids' Christmas tree. If you're going to hang up your gingerbread people, make sure to cut a small hole in the top of the head before you bake them. Once your cookie is decorated and cooled, thread red ribbon through the hole and hang your adorable creation on the tree.

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 6

While searching for cookie recipes that I liked, I kept stumbling across pet cookies. Well, why not!? Whip up a batch of cookies for your special pet this holiday.

Peanut Butter Pet Cookies

2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk, then add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Bake for 20 minutes on a greased baking sheet until lightly brown. Be careful, can burn easily. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 5

Each year we vote on our favorite cookies and this was one of our winners! Everyone loved Missy's delicate almond cookies and I'm sure you will too.

Scandinavian Almond Bars

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 Tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 325. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and almond extract, mix until fluffy. Stir in flour and baking powder, mix well. Divide dough into 4 pieces - roll eich piece into a log 12" long. Place two rolls per cookie sheet 4-5" apart. Flatten each roll by hand until about 3" wide.

Brush flattened roll with milk and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. Cut cookies crosswise at a diagonal while still warm (about 1" wide.)

When cool, drizzle with almond icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/4 cup milk

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 4

Two types of cake-mix cookies make for an easy-peasy baking night.

Cake Mix Cookies

1 box cake mix, any flavor
Vegetable oil

Prepare cake mix as directed EXCEPT omit water and use one less egg than recipe calls for. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and drop onto cookie sheet. Bake in 350 oven for 10-12 minutes.

For peppermint sprinkle cookies, add crushed candy canes or peppermint candies to batter (try with chocolate cake mix!)

For sandwich cookies, color white icing with food colors and ice the bottoms of 2 cookies, squishing them together.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Know a child named Miranda?

I ordered my daughter a personalized Disney princess nightgown for Christmas. It came with the wrong name. They are so nice and sending a replacement. But now I have this extra nightgown with Princess Miranda written on it.


Anyone know a size small princess Miranda who needs a cute nightgown? The size probably fits from a girl from 4-6 years old (check the Disney Store website for a size chart.) The character on the bottom of the gown is Ariel and not Snow White like in the picture. If you are interested, please leave a comment and I'll get in touch with you.

Feel free to re-post, Tweet or Facebook this - I'd love for this to go to a little girl who would love it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Communal Restaurant

Am so VERY excited to be trying out Communal Restaurant tonight with a group of friends. I'll be telling you how it was. Right now this tops my list of Things I Must Try.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 3

While not exactly a holiday cookie, this recipe is one that is special to me and my kids. This is my daughter's own recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Even though I posted it last year, it's a special tradition for us.

Like everything else she does, it starts with my basic recipe and she adds a little something special that makes them unique. From my family to yours...

Minnie Chip Cookies
1/3 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate MnM's
1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 Tbsp rainbow sprinkles

Have Mom cream shortening, butter and sugars together. Crush eggs over bowl, remove bits of shell, add vanilla. Have Mom mix well. Stir in flour, salt and soda (add the last 3/4 cup flour slowly, depending on your altitude and humidity, you might not need it all). Wipe or sweep up all the extra sugar and flour that you may have scattered about.
Measure out your favorite cookie 'bits' (MnM's, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, nuts, raisins, craisins, coconut, candy bits, chocolate chunks, dried cherries, etc...) and mix into dough. Use small measuring cups (1/4 or 1/8 cups) so that they're easy to handle and you get to measure and pour many times. Roll cookies into loose 2-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 2

This is a fun cookie that my friend Chrissy makes - it's loaded with delicious things and seems to satisfy any serious sweet tooth.

4 ounces butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (6 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips
1 (6 oz.) pkg. butterscotch chips
1 cup shredded coconut
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter in 9x13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over melted butter; spread crumbs with chocolate chips, then butterscotch chips. Sprinkle coconut over this, then drizzle the sweetened condensed milk evenly over all. Sprinkle with the chopped pecans. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and cut in 1 1/2-inch squares.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

12 Days of Christmas Cookies - Day 1

It's that time of year again - time to count down the days till Christmas with some festive cookie recipes. We had our annual Cookie Swap last week and, as usual, there were some terrific cookies to be sampled. This is the one that I made for the occasion.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup chopped almonds
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tablespoon orange extract extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, sugar and orange flavoring until well blended. Combine the flour and baking powder, stir into the egg mixture to form a heavy dough. Divide dough into two pieces. Form each piece into a roll as long as your cookie sheet. Place roll onto the prepared cookie sheet, and press down to 1 inch thickness.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack. When cookies are just cool enough to handle, slice each one crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Use a very sharp knife to keep from breaking the edges. Place the slices cut side up back onto the baking sheet. Bake for an additional 6 to 10 minutes on each side. Slices should be lightly toasted.

When toasted cookies are cool, dip half into melted dark chocolate. Delicious with hot cocoa or cider.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pictures with Santa

If you live in the Utah County area and are looking for a low-key and inexpensive (like, not the crazy mob-scene at the mall) way to get your kids' pictures taken with Santa, come and visit me at Pro Digital Photos on Saturday, December 12!

I'm excited to see you there!

Friday, December 4, 2009


If you want a fun and inexpensive gift idea, check out my printable beanbag game cards over on the Simply Handmade blog!

Monday, November 30, 2009

What I really want to create today

Cute, no?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving: A woman didn't invent this holiday

A repost from 2008

Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm sure not too many people have been reading anyway. As we go through all of the preparations for Turkey Day, I am starting to think that there's no WAY a woman invented this holiday. Let's take a look back in history

*insert wavy flashback-style screen*

1492 - Christopher Columbus set sail in a fleet of three ships - the El Nino, the Pinto and the Carne Asada Steak Taco. After months, perhaps years, of sailing, they landed in what they thought was America. Except that it was the Caribbean. Since the ship was sailed by men, they weren't able to stop and ask for directions. Instead, they agreed to tell everyone that they had reached the Americas, declared victory and shared a big high-five.

1620 - the Pilgrims set sail from England. This time they were accompanied by their wives, who wisely asked for directions and this time the ship landed in the real America. Unfortunately the Mayflower charged extra for non-carry-on baggage and the Pilgrims had to leave behind their food storage, electric blankets and iPods. This caused much suffering the first winter.

1621 - Having befriended the local Wampanoag Indian tribe, the surviving Pilgrims celebrated with a harvest feast. The Indians brought local delicacies, such as stewed squirrel and corn while the Pilgrims shared things from "across the pond", like smallpox. The Indians introduced the concept of "The Turkey Bowl" where the least-physically-fit tribesmen competed in feats of strength and daring. The 100-meter Big Rock Toss was a favorite of the Wampanoag men. This resulted in many sprained ankles and much complaining. This primitive tradition continues to this day, except that instead of log-tossing and rock-heaving, the "feats" have been exchanged for weekend-warrior football. Meanwhile the women cooked the turkey (known then as "venison").

1784 - Ben Franklin writes a letter to his daughter, declaring the turkey to be more noble than the chosen national bird - the eagle. Various celebrity groups speak out in favor of preserving the turkey and declaring it a protected species. Other celebrities organize a benefits concert to protect the rights of the eagle. Elton John writes a song called "Giblet Wizard". The debate is ended when the Supreme Court declares the turkey "delicious" and the eagle retains its National Bird status.

1934 - With the advancement of women's rights, the ladies begin to wonder why their husbands don't help out in the kitchen, especially with the big holiday dinners. Enlightened men everywhere rose to the challenge and instead of playing football on Thanksgiving day, began to watch it on television. They reasoned that with less sprained ankles to attend to, the women would have less work making the dinner.

1985 - Redneck men attempt to revolutionize Thanksgiving by the invention of Turducken. Instead they just make it worse. Other culinary mistakes include; Stove Top Stuffing-esque Bread Nuggets, no-bake cheesecake and Jell-O with shaved carrots.

2003 - In a misguided attempt to help in the kitchen, men introduce turkey to their other two loves - oil and fire. Countless men burn down their homes in deep-fried turkey fires.

Today - Thanksgiving traditions continue, unimpeded. While men watch football and nurse their sprained ankles and singed eyebrows, women continue the tradition of delicious food and family-togetherness. I hope every one of you ladies has a wonderful holiday. Be sure to hide the matches from your husband.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thanksgiving stuffing

Remember that one time I won that recipe contest and the recipe was posted at Rachael Ray's magazine? I guess that link doesn't work anymore but the recipe is still posted here. Yay!

The test kitchens have changed my recipe a little bit, so I'll go ahead and post the recipe that I actually use:

One 1-pound loaves white bread, cut into cubes
1 bunch celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
2 sticks (12 ounces) butter
2 onions, chopped
One 10-ounce package sliced white mushrooms
1 tablespoon coarse salt
3 tablespoons poultry seasoning
2 large eggs, beaten


Preheat the oven to 250°. Scatter the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake, tossing occasionally, until dried but not browned, about 40 minutes. Let cool.

Wash the bunch of celery and chop the entire thing (leaves and all) into 1/2" pieces.

In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Mix in the celery and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Stir in the salt and poultry seasoning until thoroughly combined.

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the beaten egg mixture. Add the vegetable mixture and toss until well combined.

I stuff part of this mixture into the turkey. The remaining stuffing is placed into a buttered casserole dish and covered with foil in the fridge until the turkey is almost done. Bake the stuffing for 40 minutes, covered, at 350 or until hot throughout.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fuentes Pictures

If you're thinking 'wow, there have been lots of pictures this week'... you'd be right! We got lots of great pictures of this totally fun family and I had lots to share.

Remember these little heartbreakers from last year? If anything they're more gorgeous now.

And now they've added another beautiful girl to their collection.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Holiday plates

We're hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year so I'm totally excited to get new holiday plates.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Duffin family pictures

Last week was crazy-busy with pictures, so you get to look at a lot! After the cold cold weather of mid-October, I was worried that picture-season had come to a close - but then we had another beautiful and warm week. This family had great energy and they were just awesome to work with.

The kids were so cute and fun to work with. They were silly and loved to run around but they pretty much did everything I asked them to.

There were so many from this shoot that I loved... sorry!

Look at those lovely blue eyes!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Baby Milo pictures

Sweet little Milo is the new baby boy of my good friend Jessica. It's lucky she dedicated an entire afternoon to photographs, because little Milo was so determined to be awake that it took a while to get him resigned to the idea of taking pictures. I think this is the only sleeping picture we were able to get.

He was awake the the rest of the time but fairly agreeable. Milo's daddy had a special blanket from when he was little - we wrapped Milo up in 'Lankie' for some of the pictures.

And then when Nate was on his mission, he had another special well-loved blanket, 'Mission Lankie'.

Thanks baby Milo, you are so precious and adorable!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why not...

...enjoy the last few warm days outside with some good books?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Christmas already?

I've thought about getting an Advent calendar for the kids for a while but I never see one that I particularly like. I also don't have the patience to make one. So today I ran across this little beauty while I was out shopping, which satisfies my desire for the advent calendar AND a darling little Christmas village!

I know, right?!?!!?

I 'borrowed' the pictures from an eBay auction so ignore the Best Buy Always thing.

So the bad news is that I also got this box of Chocolates From Around the World that have pretty, shiny foil wrappers and I thought they would be perfect and lovely to open every day. Sadly I got everything opened and realized that the chocolates are too big to fit in the doors for the calendar. Poor me. I now have to eat all these lovely chocolates myself. Also I need to find something smaller for the village.
Bart is nearly beside himself with excitement and can't believe that he has to wait an entire month to start opening doors to find treats. It occurred to me that he just might be planning to eat 48 pieces of chocolate on December 1. I might have to think this process through a little further.

Monday, November 2, 2009

In which they wore costumes and gathered candy

Once upon a time there was one not-so-wicked witch with her shiny happy ever-so-pink costume and her sidekick, Disgruntled Bat.

Not-so-wicked Witch was beautiful and sparkly and put together a costume full of stripes, polka-dots, a clever little cape and even a not-so-scary spider.

Disgruntled Bat really really really wanted to be a pirate and would not accept that the pirate costume was Not Warm Enough for trick-or-treating in the cold. He did not appreciate being cute or fuzzy.

The Not-so-wicked Witch had very specific instructions for the team that handles her makeup and hair.

Disgruntled Bat finally agreed to one not-grumpy picture in return for a large treat from the Halloween bag.

The two friends went on a fantastic adventure with the Whos from Whoville, HutuHutu headhunters and Princess Leia where they gathered candy from hundreds of people, were chased by a giant escaped Elvis impersonator and eventually collapsed into a sugar-induced coma while watching Monsters vs. Aliens. But that's another story.

And because my parents are Cool Like That, check out who answered THEIR door when trick-or-treaters came to call. It might be hard to see in the picture but they rigged up the scariest phantasm you've ever seen.