Home Sweet Home

Wow, what a weekend!
We are finally back home… well, we’ve been here since late Monday night.
Yesterday hubby’s brother and girlfriend came over to visit, and we spent the night chatting, playing Wii bowling and playing Phase 10.  Quite a long day, this girl was tired!
Oh and we also went shopping that morning to return some things from Christmas, and to finally get me my Keurig.  Well, okay, not a Keurig… but the Mr. Coffee with Keurig technology.
I read the reviews and decided that was the best way for me to go.  Much cheaper than the mini Keurig, which I didn’t even like.. yet still does the exact same thing.
I pretty much love it.  Coffee is so much easier to make in the mornings now!  Woot!

Christmas was a fun day at my parents place.  Lots of presents for baby girl.
Plus a Packers win – made the day perfect!

Here are some pictures from Christmas.

After church on Christmas Eve.

Isn’t she the cutest?!  Such a happy little girl! 

Christmas morning breakfast.  I brought everything to make breakfast for the family – but my step-mom ended up cooking it all (aside from the donuts, I made those!).  Apparently I’m no good at making breakfast for a mass amount of people!  But it was yummy – great way to start the day!

Santa found baby girl – even though she wasn’t at home.  What an awesome guy, that Santa!

Santa knows baby girl loves books!  A Curious George book with eight stories is the greatest!

“Here Mom, let me get that wrapping paper off!”

It’s a pink puppy!!!
(Here is the back story – when I was a little one, my family got this HUGE pink puppy… Like one of those stuffed animals you would get at the carnival.  I apparently hated that thing.  There is one picture of it, where my brothers are holding me and I am just screaming my head off.  I hated that pink puppy.  My parents had to throw it out.  My brothers still won’t let me forget about that.  How I destroyed their pink puppy.  So, my family thought it would be a fantastic idea to get baby girl a pink puppy… She apparently loved it.. However, it isn’t anywhere near as big or scary as the one we had as children.)

“Momma, look, balls!!”

 “Grandma, let’s break this thing out and get cooking!”
Don’t you love the reindeer on her butt?! 

 Baby girl loves her box full of balls!  The balls will actually go in her play pen, but she didn’t have that at my parents place.  So the box from my dad’s Christmas present would have to do.  She loved it.

 Playing with her cousin.  Those two are just too cute!  So precious!

All tuckered out after a long Christmas day.  Cuddling up with her uncle. 

Well, I’m out.  I swear we will be back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.
Now, I’m going to sit back and catch up with the Christmas movies I couldn’t watch before Christmas.  Thank you, Hulu for letting me watch these movies!

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Christmas Cookies Galore… Take Two

Like I said, last night I baked up a storm. 
I finally have them all organized and packaged.  Some ready to ship… Some ready to hand out… And some ready to just drop on the counter at my parents house tomorrow!  
Oh my did I bake a lot of cookies. 
Let’s just say I’m giving cookies to four families – two of which will serve more than five people. 
Next year, I’ll start baking in July…

Here are the cookies I made last night.

White Chocolate Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped (reserve 2 Tablespoons of liquid from cherries)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 drops red food coloring
2 teaspoons shortening
White nonpareils, sprinkles, and/or red edible glitter (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well reserving 2 Tablespoons of cherry liquid for later.
In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender (or 2 forks), cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. You could also use a food processor here or use your Kitchen Aid Mixer. Stir in drained and chopped cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped white chocolate. Stir in the 2 Tablespoons reserved cherry liquid, almond extract, and food coloring. Mixture will be very dry and look like crumbs. Don’t worry. That’s normal. Using your hands, knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.
Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. The cookies do not spread much so make sure your balls are well formed. Having slightly damp hands helps here. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Do not overbake! Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.
In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. You could also do this in the microwave, melting in 30 second intervals stirring in between. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in sprinkles and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. 
 
Spiced Sugar Cookies
 Recipe adapted from McCormick

2 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Cookie Icing:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract

Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl. Set aside. Beat granulated sugar and butter in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed.

Refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight until firm.

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface* to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into shapes with favorite cookie cutters. 
 

Place on greased baking sheets.

Bake 8 minutes (I like my cookies soft and chewy – I found that cooking any longer than 8 minutes, when the edges start to brown, result in a crunchy cookie). Cool on baking sheets 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

For the Icing, mix all ingredients. (Stir in additional milk as needed to thin icing or more confectioners’ sugar to thicken, if needed.) Place small icing in a squeeze bottle.  Squeeze icing back and forth across cookies.  Sprinkle with colored sugar.
White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Cookies
 Recipe from Bakergirl

2 (7-ounce) boxes Jiffy raspberry muffin mix

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
2 tablespoons butter-flavored shortening
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the cream cheese, butter, shortening, and brown sugar, until just combined (I beat mine until it was completely smooth, but still had little chunks of cream cheese). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the muffin mix and using a wooden spoon, mix until incorporated. Stir in the white chocolate chips and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease baking sheets and roll dough into tablespoon-size balls. Place 2-inches apart on baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until just turning golden around the edges. Cool five minutes on baking sheet before removing to wire racks to cool completely. 
Snickerdoodles

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For rolling:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on high speed. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.

Let dough rest in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar with the cinnamon for the topping.

Take about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the dough and roll it into a ball (I used my cookie scoop).  Roll dough ball in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and press it onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Repeat for the remaining cookies.

Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies may seem undercooked, but will continue to develop after they are removed from the oven.

Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling rack.

Well, I’m off to finish laundry, cleaning and wrapping presents.  Oh and packing. 
I feel I haven’t gotten anything done today!  Where has the day went?!  Yikes!
Time to get on the ball… definitely want to be in bed at a semi-normal time tonight!

Christmas Came Early!

Hubby had a vacation day today… though he has to work tomorrow… I know, I know!  
So, we decided to celebrate Christmas with our little family today, since we are traveling for Christmas, and didn’t really want to lug the presents with.

Baby girl wasn’t sure what to think, when we openly handed her a present to open.

Typically we shoo her away from the tree and the boxes that keep her in the living room.

She just stared at the present at first, then started hitting it.

Eventually hubby helped her out a little, but she just kept hitting at the paper.  It was quite cute.

Finally I put her on my lap and helped her.

Yay for first Christmas gifts!

She got a Laugh and Learn Mailbox.
I thought it did more than it actually does. I thought something happened when you put the letters through the slot in the top – but nothing does.

She does enjoy chewing on the letters.

And opened the mailbox a few times.

So she seems to enjoy it, guess that is what matters.

Baby girl and I got hubby a subscription to Beckett Football.

He loves that magazine, but it costs $9.99 buying it at the store!

I got the year subscription for $26.95.  Much better deal – crazy how much they over-charge you at the store!

Baby girl would much rather play with the plastic bags from daddy’s present, than that mailbox we got her…

“Oh, listen… I can make noise with this bag!  So much more fun than that mailbox!!”

I had to take the bag away from her though, because she kept wanting to chew on it.
Not okay, baby girl… Not okay.

Hubby and baby girl got me the Best Ever Cupcake Icing Kit.

Yay!! 

I cannot wait to make cupcakes so I can use it!  I really wanted it before baby girl turns one, because I want to make her cupcakes, but I want to make them look nice.

This kit is seriously, the best ever!    It comes with five extra large tips and a professional pastry bag.

They even have a video on the site to demonstrate each tip.  Looks so easy!  Can’t wait!
The tips are huge!  When they say extra large, they mean it!

 So freaking big!  But I can’t wait to use them!  I have a feeling frosting cupcakes will be super easy now!

The rest of the day, we went shopping for some last minute presents.  Then I baked, baked and baked some more!  I can officially say I am done baking for the year!  Woo!!  So.Many.Cookies! I didn’t think I was going to be making as many as I did.
Oh well, now I can split it between my family and hubby’s family.

I’ll leave you with a picture that makes me smile.

Baby girl had some crazy hair when we came back from shopping… from her hat.  Then daddy kept blowing her hair, so it stood up like a mohawk.
She is still so stinking cute though!

I’ll show you the cookies I made tomorrow… I need to clean up, do dishes and go to bed.  So tired.

Christmas Cookies Galore!

I didn’t start baking until after 8pm tonight.
That makes for a long night of baking.
But, I think I’ve finally found my baking rhythm.
I finally have a system, so I have another batch of cookies ready to go in the oven, when the first batch comes out.
Makes it much easier, and doesn’t take an hour per cookie batch.
Helps to have multiple cookie sheets.
Though, chances of me starting my baking (3 different cookies baking) at 8pm, probably aren’t going to happen again.  
Here are the three different cookies I made tonight.
Peanut Butter Blossoms
 Recipe from Bakergirl

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Hershey kisses
1/4 cup granulated sugar to roll cookies in
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a bowl with a mixer, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and peanut butter. Then beat in egg and vanilla.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat until well blended.
Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls and roll in 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Set ball 1 1/2-inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly darker brown.
Place 1 chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie; dough may crack. Return to oven and continue to bake until chocolate is shiny and soft, about three more minutes. Cool on wire rack.
Peppermint/Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup packed light-brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Andes peppermint crunch chips
1/2 cup mini milk chocolate chips

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.

Reduce speed to low; add the salt, vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed, about 1 minute.

Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.

Stir in the peppermint chips and mini chocolate chips.

Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely.
Black and White Cookies

FOR THE COOKIES

2 cups cake flour

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 3/4 cups sugar

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest or 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (slightly stronger flavor)

1 cup milk

FOR THE ICING

3 ounces bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup water

3 tablespoons honey

5 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To make the cookies: 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar until well combined and light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time (scraping the bowl between additions, as needed), until fully incorporated. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until just combined, followed by half of the milk, mixing until just combined. Repeat with the remaining flour and milk, ending with the final 1/3 of the flour mixture. Stir in the lemon zest (or extract) and vanilla extract until combined, being careful not to over mix.

Drop the batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto the prepared baking sheet(s), leaving 2 inches between the cookies. Bake until centers are firm and edges just begin to brown, 15-18 minutes. Cool the cookies for 2 minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before icing. Once the cookies are completely cooled, flip them over.

To make the icing: 
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl and set aside.

In a small saucepan set over medium high heat, bring the water and honey to a boil. Remove from heat and add half of the mixture into the sugar. Whisk until fully incorporated and smooth, adding more of the honey mixture, 1 teaspoon at a time, as needed. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add extra liquid very slowly to be sure that the icing doesn’t get runny.

Fill a decorating bag with a small amount of icing and snip off the end. Draw a straight line directly across the center of the bottom of each cookie. Return any extra icing to the bowl. Using a small offset spatula, spread vanilla icing over half of each cookie, filling it in up to the line.

Once all of the cookie have vanilla icing, stir the melted chocolate into the remaining vanilla icing. If needed, stir in any remaining honey mixture, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.

Again using a small offset spatula, fill in the other half of the cookie with chocolate icing.

The Peanut Butter Blossoms were delicious, like normal. 
My favorite was the Peppermint Chip Cookies… yum!  I love me some peppermint!
I’m still on the fence with the Black and White cookies.  I couldn’t really taste the lemon flavor – and it was just kind of bland for me.  Maybe it was just that cookie?  I don’t know.  Plus, what a mess to make!  The one I showed was probably the prettiest of them all!  Yikes! 
Well, tomorrow I’m only baking one batch of cookies. 
I will probably make the dough for the ones that need to be refrigerated overnight – so I can do those on Thursday while hubby is home.  
For now, I’m exhausted, and just want to curl up in bed. 
Next year, I’m definitely starting earlier with the cookies.  And I’ll probably just stick to the ones I like and I know how to make.  We’ll see though, when that time comes.  

First Christmas Treats

Well, my weekend didn’t turn out exactly as planned. 
Hubby didn’t get home early on Friday night… he got home around 4am. 
When we woke up on Saturday, he wasn’t feeling well.  So he slept while I took care of baby girl.
He woke up around 3pm, showered, got his haircut, showered again… and by that time, it was closing in on 5:30.  I ended up going out myself… I needed to do some personal shopping and needed to pick a few more things up for cookies. 
Sunday we watch the horrible Packers game, then I went out for coffee and bumming with my sister-cousin. 
I wanted to start baking some cookies… that didn’t happen. 

I did end up making the first of the treats though… the really super simple treat. 
Chocolate covered pretzels – or close to it. 

The longest part of making these, is unwrapping the kisses!  Took forever!
I used the Candy Cane kisses.

 And the Hug kisses. 

 The putting them on the pretzel part took a while too… but not nearly as long as unwrapping.

 Thank goodness I’m done with these.  As much as I love them, they are slightly annoying to make.

Bake at 170 degrees for 6-10 minutes.  The pop another pretzel on top.

I popped the tray in the freezer, then broke them apart and put them in ziplock bags.

Mmmm. Chocolate pretzel sandwiches! 

It is taking everything I have to not open the freezer and munch on these! 

I’m off.  I plan to bake a cookie a day all week.  Haven’t done that yet today, so must get on that!
I’ll update you tomorrow on which one I made and how they turned out.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Well, it’s December 14th (where the heck did the month go?!), and it is raining in Northeastern Wisconsin.  Now, I’m all for rain.  I love it normally… but seriously, on December 14?  Pretty sure you can turn to snow.  Snow that just sticks to the grass – not the roads.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to have heated roads?! 
I love snow in December – there is just something magical about it for me. 
But come January, I’ll be ready for it to leave.  Though I know it won’t leave until probably April.  Ugh, the joys of living in Wisconsin. 

Today, since it has been raining and dreary all day, I made a big ol’ pot of chili. 

Just like last time, but with ground turkey instead of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  If you have leftover Thanksgiving turkey, you should probably toss it.  Just saying.

You know how I said yesterday, that the chances of me reading a really good book next, are slim.  Well, I was right.  I cracked open a book last night as I got into bed.  A book that has been on my reading list, and sitting on my bookshelf.  I had high hopes for it… but I’m disappointed.
However, I can’t seem to stop reading it.  It’s not horrible, but it isn’t the greatest read.  I still can’t seem to put it down and just walk away from it.  I just need to know how it ends.  Am I the only one who feels this way?!  Hubby asked me last night why I kept reading if I didn’t like it.  Mostly, because I just want to find out where the book goes.  I feel I’m already invested in it.  I’m more than halfway through… stopping now would just bug me.
Here is the book I’m reading.  How it became a #1 New York Times Bestseller, I will never know, considering on Goodreads, the reviews aren’t that great.

Source

With that, I’m going to leave you with one of the Bookfessions I told you about yesterday.

I cannot tell you how many times I have done this. 
Mostly it was when I lived at home still, and the library was within walking distance from my house.
On my way home from the library I would always have my face in a book.  I just couldn’t ever wait to start whatever I had checked out. 
I never tripped or stumbled or anything – and yes, I always looked for cars when I was passing a road.  I was still completely away of my surroundings.  But you have to remember, I grew up in a town with a population of a little over 800 (less at that time I lived there).  So cars were few and far between. 
I think there was even sometimes I would read while riding my bike.  Yeah… that was safe. 

Have a wonderful dreary Wednesday night!  I’m going to go choke down the rest of that book.