Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me, I'm Now Thirty-Three

Okay, you caught me. I'm not actually 33. I'm really 36 today. But it made my title rhyme, which I really liked.

I had the birthday that I think is fitting for a 36 year old stay-at-home mom of three rugrats. My morning started off well enough when my kids let me sleep in until 7:30 AM. I wandered downstairs with my 9 year old son and my 6 year old daughter and was immediately bombarded with inquiries into playing the Wii. I acquiesced and was soon watching my son battle thugs and others as Indiana Jones on our family room TV. My daughter snuggled up next to me and about 15 minutes later my 4 year old daughter found her way downstairs. A request was made for a green bar (a Nutri Grain bar) just as I excused myself to use the bathroom. I told my four year old that I thought they were on a high shelf, but she could try to get them if she wanted to.

After washing my hands my son told me he had slipped and hurt his knee. Usual stuff, he was still walking, wasn't too concerned. Then I walked into the kitchen and slipped. I looked down to see what was making the floor slippery. I couldn't really see very much until I took a closer look. There in a huge pool on the floor was my essentially full bottle of olive oil on it's side, and oil EVERYWHERE. I tried to think quickly and finally decided I needed a towel from the laundry room to mop up the oil. I asked Ian if he knew what happened. He said he didn't know. It was then that I noticed that Zoe, my four year old, was nowhere to be found. I asked Ian if Zoe had spilled the bottle. Ian of course didn't know because he had been playing the Wii at that time, thus his brain could not observe anything except how many lego studs Indiana Jones had collected. After cleaning up the oil with the towel, scrubbing the area with Murphy's oil soap and water, then washing all the towels used to clean up the mess, I went to find Zoe. She was hiding under her covers on her bed. She was so upset, and afraid I was angry at her. I assured her I was not angry and then escorted her downstairs where she decided on a bowl of mini wheats instead of a green bar for breakfast.

Next I made myself a lemon cake from scratch. I love lemon cake. I sifted my ingredients three times just like the recipe called for and baked it up to perfection in two 9 inch cake pans. Having never made the cake before, I wasn't sure how lemony it was (it only had lemon zest, no juice or extract). So I decided to make a lemon buttercream frosting to top the cake with. By the time I was done the cake looked very pretty. Unfortunately when we ate it after dinner, it didn't taste so good. Actually, the cake was really yummy, though not real lemony. It was the frosting that wasn't quite right. It was a little bitter and tasted odd. I think when I zested the lemon I may have gotten some of the bitter pith with the zest. I am mostly mad that I wasted 1 1/2 sticks of butter in the frosting, one that won't get eaten now. I'm contemplating scraping the frosting off and still eating the cake. Next time I'll use extract instead of real lemon zest and juice in my frosting. I think it may taste sweeter that way (and less chance for screwing it up).

After dinner and blowing out my candles on my cake, I opened my much anticipated birthday gift. I don't usually have one particular item on my list that I want more than anything else. But this year I let my husband know over and over again what I wanted. And guess what, all my subtle (and not so subtle) hinting worked! He got me the Provo Craft Cuttlebug! I can't wait to try it out.

Oh yeah, my night ended with my husband and I forcing my peepee hold dancing four year old into the bathroom so she wouldn't have an accident. Apparently we were watching the wrong kid, because not more than one minute later my six year old daughter was running through the family room with wet pants yelling, "IAN MADE ME DO IT."

Yes, truly a fitting end to my 36th birthday.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Basking in the Christmas Afterglow

Our Christmas was fun and fast and before we knew it had come and gone. We spent the weekend before Christmas in Ohio with my family. My parents have been rearranging Christmas for many years, making it some weekend other than when Christmas really is. I love this for many reasons. The two best are that whenever they have Christmas, ALL of my brothers (2 of them) and my sister (just 1) are there with their spouses and children, and that my kids get to wake up Christmas morning in their own house and Brendan and I get to experience Christmas morning with just our family. I can't tell you how much it means to me to get to see all of my nieces and nephews (8 of them on my side) and always my sibs and sister-in-laws and brother-in-law. I only get home about three times a year, but each time I usually get to see everyone because my parents are so gracious about making sure it is a date that everyone can make it.

On Saturday we drove down to Minster, Ohio and had Christmas with my Mom's family at a hall there. My mom's family is huge, and we have been having Christmas in the same rented hall for as far back as I can remember. I know in one of my photo albums in the basement is a picture of me dressed up in a majorette costume, a gift from my Aunt Rosie, in that rented hall. If you are not from a big blue collar family, you cannot fully appreciate the chaos that is Christmas with the Barhorsts. Most of my 15 aunts and uncles were there (my mom is one of fifteen), many of my cousins, and lots of my cousins' kids. We always start with a prayer and a big noon meal of food everyone contributes like chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, baked beans and green beans with bacon and a whole table filled with homemade desserts. The hall and main entree food are paid for by several 50/50 raffles. After the meal, several people (usually the men, but occasionally a few women as well) settle into a poker game at some round tables in either corner of the hall. The little children go up to a "fish pond" by the kitchen of the hall where several of my aunts hook toys onto the end of the lines for the kids to receive. Most of the kids get 5-10 things at the fish pond and need plastic chopping bags to hold their loot in. Several others join in a few rounds of "Robbers Bingo". This is where every number of a card is called and every person can bingo five (5) times. For example, if your first bingo is vertically, you shout bingo and go get a prize off the front table (also items that people have all brought). You then clear that row, and you can now bingo four more times, for the other vertical rows. When you bingo, you can get a prize off the table or steal someone else's prize, as long as they did not get it on that bingo turn. There are always a few items that it seems everyone wants, and so they get stolen a lot. Your best bet is to get the last number, therefore the last bingo, and hope the prize you want is near you. It's a lot of fun, but pretty crazy as well.

I was fortunate enough to get to go to my Aunt Louise and Uncle Dave's house afterward. They are my aunt and uncle from my Dad's side of the family, but only live about a half hour away from Minster. My Aunt was diagnosed last Christmas with breast cancer and I have been doing all I can to keep her spirits up. When she was first going through chemo and other treatments I tried to send her a card weekly. She and my uncle are two of those people who were always great to me as a kid. As her prognosis has improved, I haven't sent as many cards. But I knew I wanted to visit and we had a great time. I gave her some of my homemade chocolate peppermint bread and two ABC recipe card sets for cookies and muffins. They gave Brendan and I some of their home canned beef and a huge ziploc bag of Orville Redenbacher popcorn (their son-in-law is a popcorn farmer for Orville Redenbacher). I was glad to see them both doing well.

We celebrated Christmas on Sunday with my family and then came home on Monday. My kids always have a great time with their cousins. This year they made their own Christmas play about the true meaning of Christmas. Zoe, being the youngest cousin, got to be the baby Jesus. The adults always have fun playing some party game. This year it was Mad Gab. Once we got the hang of it, we had to find ways to make it more challenging, like doing as many cards in the time frame without any passing. My mom finally found a party game she was pretty good at!

We spent Christmas Eve at 3:00 PM mass and then headed over to my father-in-law's house for a delicious meal of leg of lamb and risotto. I brought a new butternut squash recipe (sooooo good) and baked beans made with bacon. We opened our gifts and returned home at about 11:00PM, when we had just enough time to put out some cookies for Santa and sprinkle some reindeer food on the front yard for Rudolph and his pals.

The kids were all up at 6:00 AM (our rule, no one gets up before 6:00!!!!) and had there stockings emptied by 6:03. Emma bounded in and asked us to get up, so we obliged. The presents were all opened by 6:17 (that may be generous) and Brendan and I settled in to undoing those damn twisty ties and plastic zip chord used to make toys stay nice in their boxes. We ate Kringle, played our new Wii games, and sat around in our pajamas most of the morning.

Christmas night was spent with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law at our house. I had to make the hors d'oeuvres, side dishes, and desserts while my MIL brought the main course. I was so psyched I didn't have to make one main course this entire Christmas. Only side dishes and one dessert. It was nice.

Oh, and I have to mention the best gift I received this Christmas? All the good news I received on December 23rd. My cousin's surgery on her neck went well. My aunt's scan on her eye because they thought they saw a new lesion was found to be clear. And my new nephew Declan was born. Brendan went to see him on Christmas day, I went on the 26th. Elizabeth and Patrick are very proud parents to one of the most adorable little guys around.

Hope your holiday were a lot of fun, too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Well, here it is. My twelfth recipe of Christmas. I saved this recipe for gingersnaps for the last one because it is a very special recipe. Not only is it delicious and pretty, but I received this recipe from my husband's grandmother, Eleanor VanDeNorth, several years ago. Grandma Van, as all her grandkids called her, made cookies every year for all of her grandkids and each one got a box of cookies all to themselves. When I was in college dating Brendan, he would share his cookies with me. He told me how the gingersnaps were his favorite, and after having one I had to agree. As we became engaged and then married, I saw Grandma Van more and more often. One night while having dinner at her house, I asked for a few of her recipes (a chicken dinner, her salad dressing and the gingersnaps). She gave them to me and I've been making them ever since. I remember when I told some of Brendan's family that she gave me the recipes for her dressing and the gingersnaps and they were somewhat surprised. Apparently Grandma Van kept her recipes a close guarded secret. I don't attribute her generosity so much to my personality as to the fact that she adored Brendan. He had lived with her through his four years of high school and was an extremely loving and dutiful grandson. I remember visiting over some college holiday and going over to her house so Brendan could cover her air conditioner and do a few other odd jobs for her. She was an incredible woman with a wonderful talent for baking cookies. She died this September and is greatly missed. At our house, it wouldn't be Christmas without Grandma Van's gingersnaps. Please enjoy her recipe.

Grandma Van's Gingersnaps

▪ ¾ cup shortening
▪ 1 cup sugar
▪ 1 egg
▪ ¼ cup molasses
▪ 2 cups flour
▪ 2 teaspoons baking soda
▪ 1 teaspoon cinnamon
▪ 1 teaspoon ground cloves
▪ dash salt
▪ 1 teaspoon ginger

Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat. Add molasses and beat well. Sift remaining dry ingredients together. Add to creamed mixture; mix well.

Refrigerate dough for at least two hours or overnight. Roll into small balls and roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 12-13 minutes at 350ºF.

Makes about 60 cookies.

Notes: If you use parchment paper you do not have to grease the cookie sheet. DO NOT overbake these cookies. They burn easily. As they cool they will harden and you will get the distinctive crunch of a gingersnap.

This completes my 12 recipes of Christmas. I hope you have enjoyed seeing them and trying them as much as I have enjoyed sharing all of them with you. Have a blessed and merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Scandinavian Almond Bars

This is a newer recipe for me, although it comes from an old Better Homes and Garden cookbook. I absolutely love almonds. As I was looking through the cookbook, this recipe jumped out at me. Not only does the cookie dough contain almond extract, but their are almonds scattered on top and an almond extract infused drizzle of icing on top. These are truly delicious, and if you have picky children like mine, leave the almonds off the top. They'll still love the yummy cookie without them.

Scandinavian Almond Bars

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

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and almond extract and beat well. Add flour mixture and beat until well mixed.

Divide dough into fourths. Form each into a 12-inch roll (like a log). Place two rolls 4-5 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten the roll until it is 3 inches wide. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Brush flattened rolls with milk and sprinkle with almonds. Bake in a 325ºF oven for 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. While cookies are still warm, cut them crosswise at a diagonal into 1 inch strips. Cool. Drizzle with Almond Icing.

Almond Icing

1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/4 tsp. almond extract
3-4 tsp. milk

Stir powdered sugar and almond extract together. Add enough milk to make the icing of drizzling consistency.

If you put the cookies on a wire rack before drizzling with the icing, the excess can fall under the rack and not make the bottom of your cookies sticky. These really are good and I hope you enjoy them!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Boston Cream Pie

I made this last year for Christmas Eve dessert. We were going to church in the afternoon and then heading straight to my father-in-law's for dinner. I had to make something that could sit in the van during mass and make it easily to his house. This is one of those super simple recipes that tastes great and looks impressive as well. If you are looking for a dessert last minute that is not too time consuming, this is the one.

Boston Cream Pie

1 pkg. (18-1/4 ounces) yellow cake mix
1 1/2 cups cold milk
1 pkg. (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
2 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons hot water

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Prepare cake mix batter according to package directions. Pour into two greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans.

Bake for 28-33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing cake from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk milk and pudding mix for 2 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes or until soft-set. Cover and refrigerate.

In a microwave, melt chocolate and butter; stir until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar, vanilla and enough water to achieve a thick glaze; set aside.

Place one cake layer on a serving plate; spread with pudding. Top with the second cake layer. Spoon chocolate glaze over the top, allowing it to drip down sides of cake. Refrigerate until serving.

My family really enjoyed this recipe, and I enjoyed that it didn't take all day in the kitchen to make!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chocolate Peppermint Bread

If the cake recipe from Wednesday seems like too much work, or you need a really quick (and delicious) gift to give to neighbors, friends, teachers, or anyone special, this is the recipe for you. I made these mini loaves Wednesday morning with my four year old daughter to give to her pre-school teachers at her Christmas party. When we started making them, they were just going to be Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread, but when I looked in my pantry and saw my bag of Andes Peppermint Crunch Chips, I was inspired to make a little change to the recipe. This was my first time making this recipe this way (I've made it many times without the peppermint chips) and I loved the results. My nine year old son, who loves chocolate mint anything devoured most of one loaf himself!

To give as a gift, wrap in clear plastic wrap, then tie ends with curling ribbon and curl. It makes a very pretty (and tasty) gift!

Chocolate Peppermint Bread

1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
generous 1/4 cup chocolate chips
generous 1/4 cup Andes peppermint crunch chips

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease and flour 4 mini loaf pans.

Combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Stir to blend.

Add the eggs, milk and melted butter. Stir until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and peppermint crunch chips.

Divide evenly among the 4 loaf pans. Bake until bread springs back when lightly touched, 20 - 25 minutes. Let cool in pan for ten minutes. Run knife around edge of pan and remove bread to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 4 mini loaves

Notes on this recipe: This recipe is actually a muffin recipe. If you want to bake as muffins, it makes 18 muffins. Bake for only 15-18 minutes or until done. My mini loaves took 23 minutes to bake. When I say a generous 1/4 cup, make it a heaping 1/4 cup. This has a very mild mint taste. You could up the mint flavor by using up to 1/2 cup of the peppermint crunch chips. If you want just chocolate chocolate chip bread (or muffins), use 1/2 cup chocolate chips and no peppermint crunch chips.

This is great to make with the kids because all you need to mix it is a wooden spoon. We are down to our last loaf and I know we will definitely be making this one again. Really, chocolate and peppermint, what's not to love?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chocolate and Peppermint Cake

This cake is a showstopper. Everyone will look at your pretty creation and want some. All the recipes are from The Cake Mix Doctor, but she did not put any of them together this way. That is my creation. It really is a great cake, and because it comes from a mix it is so easy! I made this for my husband's grandmother's birthday a few years ago because she has a December 23rd birthday. I love that candy canes are used on and in it. What is more Christmassy than candy canes?

Chocolate and Peppermint Cake

1 pkg. devil's food cake mix
1 pkg. (3.9 oz.) instant chocolate pudding
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Place all ingredients except chocolate chips into bowl. Mix on low speed 1 minute. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2-3 minutes more. The batter should look thick and well combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 27-32 minutes (or whatever time the box recommends) or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Let cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

Peppermint Buttercream Filling:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup finely crushed peppermint candy
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract (OR 1/2 tablespoon peppermint schnapps)

Mix butter on low speed until fluffy. Add peppermint candy, powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and extract OR schnapps. Blend on low speed until sugar is incorporated. Increase speed to medium and beat until the frosting lightens and is fluffy, about 1 minute. Blend in up to 1/2 tablespoon milk if filling is too stiff.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
1/3 cup whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt

Beat butter and cocoa on low speed until well combined. Add all other ingredients and mix on low speed until frosting lightens and is fluffy, 2 - 3 minutes. Add more milk if frosting is too thick, or powdered sugar if too thin.

Assembling the cake:
Place one cake layer on serving plate. Spread with Peppermint Buttercream. Place other cake layer on top. Frost with Chocolate Buttercream. Sprinkle additional crushed peppermint candy on top for a pretty presentation.

Notes on this recipe: I use a Duncan Hines cake mix because it does not have pudding added to the mix. Using one of the others will probably work fine, but it may result in a heavier cake. If you are making the frosting, do not substitute margarine for the butter. Butter tastes way better.

I really enjoyed making and eating this cake! You can speed up the process by adding peppermint extract to canned vanilla frosting and using canned chocolate frosting. But, if you are going to the fuss of making a special dessert, homemade frosting does taste better. (Especially this chocolate frosting recipe - to die for!)

Only 8 days and 4 recipes until Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Snack Mix

If your family is anything like mine on Christmas Eve or Christmas day, you are inevitably sitting around in the kitchen or family room talking, reminiscing, laughing and all around having a good time chatting about anything and everything. While doing this there are always good snacks to eat. This is one of those good snacks. I adapted my recipe from this one here.

Christmas Snack Mix

4 cups Corn Chex
4 cups Rice Chex
2 cups small pretzel twists
1 cup salted peanuts
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup Christmas colored M&M's

In a large bowl, combine cereal, peanuts and pretzels. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, peanut butter, Worcestershire sauce, salt and garlic powder; cook and stir until butter and peanut butter are melted. Pour over cereal mixture and toss to coat.

Spread into a greased 15 in. x 10 in. by 1 in. baking pan. Bake at 250ºF for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool. When completely cool stir in M&M's. Store in an airtight container.

I love making this snack mix. I really enjoy the salty and sweet tastes together. And don't worry, it doesn't taste peanut buttery. If you are really lucky you can find Christmas pretzel shapes (like I did this year) and use instead of the twists. This keeps well (if you don't eat it all!) for several days, so it can be made ahead. Enjoy! (Only 10 more days and five more recipes until Christmas.)

Fun Monday - RAK edition

Mommy Wizdom is hosting Fun Monday this week. Her assignment is the following:
1) Your job this week is to go out and perform a random act of kindness. Now, before you freak out, please read on. This is actually really easy!! This act may be for someone you know or for a perfect stranger. It can be big or small, it'll all up to you. Obviously, it should be something within your means. For instance, don't go out and buy your next door neighbor a car and then complain to me that you can't make your mortgage payment, ok?

I am in a wonderful Bible Study group with an amazing group of ten women. We've been meeting for three years now, and while some members have left and new ones have come, the character of the group has never changed. Amazing women all trying to live and grow through Christ's love. It is through this group that I have gotten to participate in many random acts of kindness.

This past week, as a group, we adopted a family from our church who will not be able to have a regular Christmas due to financial difficulties. They are a family of seven and we each chose one of the family members and bought a present for them. (I got the four year old girl and bought her a double stroller with two baby dolls). We also all provided two food items and towards their Christmas main course (turkey, ham or whatever they decide) that will be turned into a gift card for their local grocery store so they can buy what they would like. I gave two cans of green beans and peach pie filling. I love that we can do this as a group because within our group of women there are a few who cannot afford much and would not be able to adopt a family on their own. But by going together, we can provide a really nice Christmas for a family who might otherwise not be able to have food, let alone gifts, and we all can do what we are able to afford. It is all done confidentially, and we do not know who the family is. We do know that this Christmas they will have a good meal to share and presents to open.

I also organized four families this year to go Christmas caroling. We went Friday night and visited five houses despite temperatures in the low teens. The ages ranged from adults in their 40's to toddlers not yet two years old. Some of the older kids started off a little embarrassed, but by the end everyone was singing their hearts out. I'm not sure any of my neighbor's knew what to think. But they all seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards we all came back to my house to warm up with hot apple cider and hot chocolate and enjoy each other's company. It was a great way to celebrate the Christmas season, and brought just as much joy to all of the carolers as it did to the recipients.

Now go visit Mommy Wizdom and read about everyone else's RAKs.

Friday, December 12, 2008

So Little, So Profound

This morning, Zoe watched an episode of The Backyardigans. Later when we were making gingerbread cookies together she said, "Tasha and Uniqua didn't know what Christmas was all about. They were trying to figure it out."

Me: They didn't know what Christmas is about?

Zoe: No. But I do. It's when we celebrate baby Jesus' birthday.

Me: That's right! Did Uniqua and Tasha figure that out?

Zoe: No. They just thought it was about having fun and spending time with friends. They didn't know about baby Jesus' birthday, but I do. That's bad that they don't know.

Me: But I'm really glad you know what Christmas is about.

Zoe: Me, too.

From the mouths of babes.

Almond Scones

This is a simple and delicious recipe for scones. If you think scones are dry, bland, or yucky, you MUST try these scones. They have a wonderful sweet taste and are fabulous with a hot cup of coffee or tea. They are definitely special enough for Christmas morning or brunch.

Almond Scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick (1/2 cup or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, frozen
3 tablespoons almond paste
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
Large coarse sugar (like demerara or turbinado)

Move oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400ºF. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter over flour mixture using large holes of a box grater. Next grate almond paste into the bowl. Use your fingers to work in butter and almond paste (mixture should resemble coarse meal).

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream, almond extract and egg until smooth. Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clump forms. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)

Place on a lightly floured surface (a pastry cloth works great!) and pat into a 7 or 8 inch circle. Sprinkle the top with coarse sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 14 - 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

Important note about scones: It is very important that you do not over mix scones. They will become dry and tough if they are handled too much. You will see butter globs and the edges will be raggedy when you pat it into the circle. It is supposed to look this way. Trust me. If you make these right, you will want to make these often!

I absolutely love these scones! The first time I made them I added some dried cherries after I mixed in the butter and almond paste. They were really good that way, but my kids picked out all the cherries, so I started making them plain. You could also sprinkle some slivered almonds or red and green sugar on top for an extra special look. Hope these make it onto your Christmas (or New Year's) breakfast table!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Full Moon

My youngest daughter came up to me in the late afternoon and said she could see the moon and it was full and very pretty. So I followed her to the living room and looked out the window at a beautiful full moon, shining perfectly between two branches of a tree in my front yard. I immediately grabbed my camera and went out on my front porch to take pictures. Unfortunately because of the snow and my not putting on warm clothes, I could not get the picture I saw from my living room floor. However, I was able to take the following shots, which I think are quite lovely.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

I made this for the first time this summer and realized that this is a perfect Christmas fudge. Creamy, peanut buttery with a crown of chocolate. So tasty and EASY to make. Aren't those the best kind of recipes? And yes, I know, another peanut butter and chocolate recipe, but I love the combination of tastes. There will still be one more for the P.B. and chocolate category, but I'm saving it for another week!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups peanut butter
2 sticks butter or margarine, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (16 oz.) box powdered sugar

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Press into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

1 (12 oz.) bag milk chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups peanut butter

Melt the chocolate chips and peanut butter in a double boiler until smooth. Pour over the top of the first layer and refrigerate. Cut into squares and serve. Store in the refrigerator.

This fudge is sooooo yummy. It is also an easy recipe to halve and make in an 8 x 8 inch pan. Hope you enjoy this fudge as much as we do!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I live in the Chicago area. It's wintertime. Therefore, it's cold. Even though I have lived here since 2000, and I would always wear a hat when building snowmen with the kids or sledding, I have not always been a hat wearer. Ear muffs, yes. Hats, no.

Well, I don't know if it's because I'm getting older and don't care as much, or if it's just because I hate being cold (always have - I was never one of those teenagers who didn't wear a coat, my mom never had to worry about me not wearing a scarf or gloves), but I have made a big decision about winter this year.

I'm going to wear a hat, one of those winter knit ones that smoosh everything down and cover my ears perfectly. And I'm going to wear it everyday, every time I go out the door. I don't care what my hair looks like when it comes off. I don't care where I'm going. I'm wearing my hat all winter long.

And I'm going to laugh at all the people who own hats but don't wear them. Because that's just stupid. I know, I used to be one of those people.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

Yes, this recipe is absolutely as good as it sounds! I made this for Christmas dessert in 2005 when I was hosting my husband's family for Christmas dinner. I was in charge of everything and made a huge dinner of barbecue brisket and for dessert, this! (This dessert even made my cheesecake hating sister-in-law give it a try!)

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake

1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup crushed Oreos
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup hot fudge ice cream topping, divided
6 peanut butter cups, cut into small wedges

In a bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, sugar, cookie crumbs and butter. Press onto the bottom and 1 in. up the sides of a greased 9-in. springform pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 7-9 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat peanut butter on high for 30 seconds or until softened. Spread over crust to within 1 in. of edges.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and sour cream until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in vanilla. Pour 1 cup into a bowl; set aside. Pour remaining filling over peanut butter layer.

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat 1/4 cup fudge topping on high for 30 seconds or until thin; fold into reserved cream cheese mixture. Carefully pour over filling; cut through with a knife to swirl.

Place pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 55-65 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer.

Microwave remaining fudge topping for 30 seconds or until warmed; spread over cheesecake. Garnish with peanut butter cups. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of pan. Refrigerate leftovers.

Yield: 12-14 servings.

This was one of those truly decadent desserts that everyone wanted to try. I had a lot of fun making this and got lots of compliments. When I told my husband which recipe I was sharing today, he said, "Yeah, that was really good!"

Friday, December 05, 2008

Ginger Creams

The third recipe for you all is Ginger Creams. I made these on Tuesday to deliver to my church as a part of our PADS program. Our church provides one dinner and then the next morning's breakfast once a month at Hesed House, the homeless shelter in our city. The parishioners can sign up for whatever items they would like to donate (according to a menu), and three dozen cookies, along with two packages of brown-n-serve sausage was my responsibility this month. Lucky for my kids and husband, this recipe makes four dozen, so there were still cookies left to be munched on after the delivery.

I found this recipe in an old cookbook in which they grouped cookies not by type (drop or refrigerator), but by categories like: Lunch Box Surprises, Picnic Stars, and Fun for the Youngsters. This recipe was categorized under "Beau-Catchers (and Husband-Keepers.)" I kid you not. With a category like that one, I knew it had to be good!

Ginger Creams

1/4 cup soft shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix together thoroughly shortening, sugar, egg, and molasses. Stir in soda and water mixture. Combine remaining dry ingredients and stir into mixture. Chill dough for two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drop dough by small rounded teaspoonfuls on lightly greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper) about 2 inches apart. Bake 7-8 minutes or just until set. Remove to cool on racks. Frost with Quick Cream Icing.

Quick Cream Icing:
Stir together 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 1-2 Tbls. cream or half & half until easy to spread.

Yield: Approx. 4 dozen

The dough for this cookie looks very much like cake batter. I made the mistake of forgetting that the dough needed to be chilled, and ended up only chilling it about 45 minutes (I threw it in the freezer for part of the time). The cookies were fine. Do use very small spoonfuls as these spread and puff up a lot! These are really soft, cake-like cookies. My children declared these to be the best cookies EVER (disclaimer: they do that a lot when I make cookies), but my husband also emphatically agreed that they were very good cookies. I guess these really are husband keepers!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bullet Points From My Week

- Why are people rude? I was in the self-checkout at Meijer, checking myself out, and a woman approaches the checkstand. I continue scanning my groceries, then my coupons, and finally I pay. As soon as I tear my receipt and coupons out of the machine, she begins scanning her items. She send them down into my groceries without even attempting to wait or separate them. Fortunately the nice woman working at Meijers came and put the separator bar between our orders (I was too busy pushing her stuff away so I could quickly bag my groceries without taking any of hers!)

- My son, while not yet figuring out that Santa isn't real, has figured out a few things about the old man. When I brought up the fact to the girls (in front of Ian) that Santa watches their behavior and sees if they are naughty or nice, Ian gave a little smirk. He followed the smirk with the comment that Santa doesn't watch him too closely. I asked him why he said that. He answered (while rolling his eyes), "Mooooom, I've been getting presents for nine years."

- Zoe watched an old Christmas Blue's Clues today. While in the van on the way to Meijer, she asked me what the boy's name on the show was. I told her it was Steve and she said, "Oh yeah, Steve. I'm Steve's honey." I asked her what she meant. She said, "What are you to Daddy?" I answered between giggles, "I'm Dad's honey, that's right."

- I made three dozen cookies for our local homeless shelter on Tuesday. I'll be sharing the recipe with you tomorrow.

- My first grade daughter read a petition at church this morning and did a great job. I was so glad I could be there to see and hear her.

- I forgot to remove the foil from the broiler of my gas oven on which I cooked pork tournedoes last night. I didn't realize it despite the burning smells until black smoke was pouring out of the top vent in my oven. Needless to say the french fries were inedible (I saved the beans-n-franks) and I burned my rubber gloves for washing dishes and fused burnt foil to my brand new $5 slippers I bought on Black Friday. I'm not happy about the slippers. Not one bit!

- I still need to go Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chocolate & Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

Our second recipe is Chocolate & Peppermint Ice Cream Cake. Not only is this a beautiful and tasty dessert, it is easy to make and can be made several days ahead if necessary! You will definitely get ooohs and aaahs when you bring this out for Christmas Eve dessert or any other time of the year for that matter.

I also won fourth prize with this recipe in Quick Cooking (Now called Simple & Delicious) and won $100. It was very exciting. You can find the recipe here, but my name doesn't appear on the website. (I have a copy of the magazine and the cookbook it was published in.)

Chocolate & Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

1 18 oz. pkg mini chocolate chip cookies (like Famous Amos)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup hot fudge topping, divided
1 quart chocolate ice cream, softened
1 quart peppermint ice cream, softened

Crush about 25 of the cookies, set remaining cookies aside. In a bowl. combine the cookie crumbs and the melted butter. Press onto the bottom of a greased 10-inch springform pan. Freeze for 15 minutes.

Microwave 3/4 cup of the hot fudge topping until soft enough to spread easily, and spread over the crust. Stand remaining cookies around edge of pan. Freeze for 15 minutes.

Spread chocolate ice cream over fudge topping. Freeze for 30 minutes. Spread peppermint ice cream over chocolate ice cream. Cover and freeze until firm. May be frozen for up to 2 months.

Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving. Remove sides of pan. Warm remaining 1/4 cup of hot fudge topping and drizzle over top of cake.


Obviously you can make this with any two ice cream flavors you enjoy. My winning entry used vanilla and chocolate ice cream. It's up to you to make it exactly how you and your family would enjoy it!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Frosted Orange Cookies

My very first recipe is for Frosted Orange Cookies. I have found this is one of those recipes that people either love or hate. There doesn't seem to be any in between. For me and my family, we love them. I got this recipe from my mom. she used to make them for us when I was a kid because they were one of my Dad's favorite cookies. They are simple and yummy, and most kids can't resist a frosted cookie!

Frosted Orange Cookies

1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup orange juice
2 T. grated orange rind
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Orange Butter Icing:
2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
2 T. butter, softened
1 T. grated orange rind
2 T. orange juice

Preheat oven to 400 ºF. Mix shortening, butter, sugar and egg. Stir in orange juice and rind. Blend dry ingredients together. Stir in. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets (for easy clean up and cookie removal, use parchment paper). Bake 8 - 10 minutes.

Icing: Combine butter and sugar. Mix. Add orange rind and juice, mix until smooth. Frost cookies when cool.

Makes about 3 dozen.

I always squeeze the juice out of the oranges I've zested, and if there is not enough for the recipe, I simply add juice from the carton in my fridge to equal the amount needed in the recipe. The fresh juice really makes a difference.

These are a soft cake-like cookie with a great orange flavor. So delicious and special on a Christmas cookie tray. Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!