Friday, December 30, 2011

Sweet and Salty Peanut Butter Cookies

This recipe was supposed to be posted before Christmas.  But time flew to quickly and I get side tracked way to how about a cookie for your New Year's party instead.

I am a sucker for all things sweet and salty.  The mixture makes me happy and satisfied at the same time...add peanut butter to the mix and we are talking HEAVEN.  I think when I ate (5...but who's counting) this cookie I could hear angels sing.  The peanut butter cookie is one that I found on the back of a Crisco container years ago and love.  Peanut butter cookies tend to get hard and crunchy once out of the oven but this recipe stays so soft and scrumptious.  Add some mini chocolate chips, pretzel bits and prepare to be transported to the pearly gates.

To make them you will need 3/4 cup of creamy Peanut Butter, 1/2 cup (or 1/2 stick) Butter flavored Crisco, 1 1/4 cups of packed light brown sugar, 3 Tablespoons of milk, 1 Tablespoon of vanilla, 1 egg, 1 3/4 cup of All-Purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips and 1/3 cup of crushed pretzels.

Begin by combining the peanut butter, Crisco, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl on medium speed, until well blended.  Add egg and beat just until blended.  In another bowl combine flour, salt and baking soda.  Add to creamed mixture and mix until just blended.  At this time you can mix in the chocolate chips and pretzel by hand to combine.

Preheat oven to 375°.  Drop by the teaspoonful about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly with crisscross pattern with tines of fork that has been dipped in regular sugar.  Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown.  Cool for 2 minutes on baking sheet and then transfer to sheets of foil that you have spread on the counter top, until the cookies are cooled completely.

I'm not sure of what the foil does but it helps make a wonderful and soft cookie that I adore.  Be sure to try them and get your sweet n' salty fix for a day anyway.  Sweet  PB-J

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Mantel Decor

Christmas is now over and the New Year is on the horizon.  As I mentioned before Christmas decorations are down and put away as soon as Christmas is over!  I was so glad to have Monday off so that I could get everything back to normal (or as normal as it gets at my house).  I have never had any New Year decorations but was inspired by a mantel that I saw on Pinterest and so I had to try it.

I found the black frames at Michael's for $3.00 a piece the day after Thanksgiving and then it was just a matter of drawing out 2 0 1 2.  I used some craft paper and a sharpie to complete them. 

Overlapped on my mantel with some silver star garland and a metal star completes the look...

On the other side I have put my black candle holders, another metal star and more silver star garland...

Hope this gives you a little New Year inspiration.  Many wishes of happiness!  Sweet year-J

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas memories...

Christmas is over now and I don't know about you but sometimes I feel a giant let down.  That feeling that you get when you have been going 100 miles an hour for a month and then all of the sudden its over and you are not quite sure of what to do with yourself (although relaxing is a good option).  So in an attempt to try and keep this feeling at bay I am going to reminisce and share the memories that made this Christmas one of the best...

Spending Christmas Eve with cousins...

All ready for midnight mass...

Thank you Santa...

Santa even left Jack a gift...

Christmas breakfast...

I hope your Christmas was filled with as many wonderful memories as ours.  Sweet Christmas-J

Friday, December 23, 2011

To me Christmas is...

To me Christmas has changed so much over the years.  When I was a young child it was all about Santa and gifts under the tree.  My parents made it the most special day of the year.  I'm not quite sure how they did it but we always felt like we were the luckiest kids in the entire world.  It was such an exciting time full of anticipation and joy. 

As I grew a little older it was still exciting and fabulous but I began to realize the true meaning of Christmas.  After all it is Jesus' birthday!!  That is definitely something to I love that guy!!!

When I left for college it became a special time to be reunited with family and friends for an extended stay and I loved that.  I tended to be being home for a long break was gift enough for me.

Then I got married and became new Mom...I felt like I had been transported back to my childhood.  Living the holiday season through the eyes of my precious young children.  A truly magical time in my life.  It was at this moment that I realized that "Christmas" doesn't just is weeks of hard work that are pulled together by mom.  My mom always made it seem so effortless, I admire that about her.

Now as my children have gotten a little older (they are both going to be teenagers next year) things have changed still a little more.  Christmas has become less about Santa again and more about the season.  Don't get me are still very important to them but they understand the concept of money and the cost of things.  They realize (especially with how the economy is now) that it is not so much about the presents but the love of family and friends. 

This Christmas I am focusing on the wonderful things that I have in my life.  I have an amazing group of friends and family who make my life so enjoyable.  People who truly love me for who I am!  I am grateful for being able to go to work each day (even though sometimes I don't want to).  I am thankful for my health and that of my children.  This past year has been a tough one but I am here...I am happy and I am ready for what life has in store.  Christmas is my time to celebrate all of these things and I am excited to do so!!!   Peace, Love and Joy from my home to yours...Sweet Christmas-J


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Handmade Christmas-Individual Jar Pies

I just love my new neighborhood and all of the awesome people who live there.  I usually only see them in passing but I want to let them know that I am thinking of them over the holiday season and I think that this gift will be perfect.  I hope that you can find someone to give them to as well.

Who can go wrong with pie?  Especially a sweet little individual pie in a mason jar (I love jars).  The great part about these little pies is that they can be baked or unbaked when you gift them.  I think that I am going to gift mine unbaked because I feel like best part about this gift is the aroma that it will fill their home with and the warmth of a fresh baked apple pie in every bite. 

To make them you will need half pint mason jars, refrigerated pie crust, granny smith apples, pats of butter/margarine and the spice mixture of (2 Tablespoons sugar, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg).  This recipe should make 4 half pint pies.

Use the lid of the jar and a knife to cut the top crust.

To make the bottom crust I pulled apart pieces of dough and put them together like a puzzle.

For the filling I chopped 4 Granny Smith apples and added the spice mixture.

Fill the crust with the apple filling and a teaspoon of butter/margarine on top.  I then cut an apple shape using a small cookie cutter from the top crust and put on top of the pie (be sure to seal the edges together).  If you don't have a small cutter then be sure to poke a few wholes in the dough so that the steam will escape as it bakes.

Cover with fabric, ribbon and they are ready to gift.
They can be frozen for a good month as well.  For those of you gifting them unbaked be sure to add a tag of how to bake them...

Jar Apple Pie

Remove lid and place apple pie on cookie sheet. Put into a preheated 350° oven for 50-55 minutes or until crust is golden and apples are bubbling.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookie # 4-Soft and Chewy Gingerbread

I know that there are many of you out there who prefer crisp cookies over soft and chewy...but I am not one of them.  I love a light and fluffy cookie that is tasty and just melts in your mouth.  It has taken me many years to find that in a Gingerbread cookie.  Most recipes I have tried were hard as a rock and although they tasted good were not for me.  Well finally I have arrived at what I believe is the perfect gingerbread cookie.  The perfect amount of spice and oh so soft and chewy.

This recipe comes from McCormick and is simple to pull together.  You will need 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 sticks butter/margarine, 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup molasses, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1 egg.

To begin mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl and set aside.

Then beat margarine and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Add molasses, egg and vanilla and mix well.  Gradually beat in the flour mixture on low speed until well mixed.  Press dough into a thick and flat disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Once dough is chilled preheat oven to 350° F.  Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch in thickness on a lightly floured surface.  Cut into gingerbread men or selected cookie cutter and place 1" apart on and ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are set and just begin to brown (do not over bake).  Cool on cookie sheets for 1-2 minutes and then move to cooling rack to cool completely.  Decorate as desired.

These really are so tasty.  If you love gingerbread cookies then please try this recipe and prepare to be impressed.  They are amazing!!!  Sweet gingerbread-J

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Handmade Christmas-Holiday Party Crackers

When I set a holiday table I like to make name tags and predetermine where everyone will sit.  It always seems like if you don't then things can get a little confusing while everyone is holding warm plates of yummy goodness.  My mom has always made these for our breakfast on Christmas morning and our family loves them...looks forward to the point that even when she doesn't make breakfast she is still expected to make them.  They would make perfect name tags for the holiday table and each guest would get a little gift as well.

All you will need is a toilet paper or paper towel roll (it depends on what you want to fill the with), wrapping paper, tape, ribbon and fillers.  Once they are filled and wrapped the recipient gets to crack them open and see what surprise lies within.  Here are some ideas for fillers...
Perfect boy fillers (race car, candy & money)...
How about a bow, bracelet, candy & money for a little girl...
Adult time (Lottery Ticket and kisses)...
Extra thought (zinger chocolate cupcake and kisses)...
Once everyone is seated they can break them open and see what lies within.  Santa even won $2.00...nice!!
Jazz up your Christmas table with holiday crackers filled with a little something for each guest.  They are sooooo fun!!  Sweet surprise-J

Monday, December 19, 2011

Family Traditions-Christmas Tree Sunday/Giveaway Winner

For as long as my brain can remember our family (and I mean all of them...or at least the ones living here) have been getting together one Sunday before Christmas.  We go into the mountains behind our homes and get a tree, sled, drink hot cocoa and enjoy each others company.  Then we go back to my Mom & Dad's (it used to be at my grandparents) and have Irish Sundaes, bake sugar cookies and celebrate my niece and grandpa getting one year older. 

Unfortunately a few things have poor grandparents have been under the weather and we have NO snow.  So a very sad thing happened...Christmas Tree Sunday was CANCELLED!!  Can you hear my disappointment?   We were even going to celebrate my Papa's 87th birthday!  I know I am sort of...ok totally throwing a temper tantrum.  I have to give my mom & dad some credit here because they tried to reschedule but my grandparents are still not feeling well (I am closing my eyes right now and sending healing wished to them) and we still do not have any snow (I can handle that).
It is a tradition that my children look forward to just as I have my entire life.  A day that makes the holidays seem complete.  Without it Christmas is missing something!  As you know from my 14 days of Thankfulness, traditions are VERY important to me but I think that they are important to everyone.  Traditions define you as a person, define a family, define a holiday and most definitely define what is important in life.  They don't have to be played out exactly the same each year but making an effort to keep a tradition going or making a new one can make an ordinary day or time simply extraordinary.  The great thing about traditions is that there is always next year!!  Thank goodness!!

What is your favorite holiday tradition?  Sweet Papa-J

The Christmas Goodie Giveaways Winner is...Tonia Albertson!  Thank you to everyone who entered be sure to tune in and enter the next one.  Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Goodie Giveaway

I have been baking yummy, delicious, soft and chewy cookies (and other yummy things) for this blog and Christmas for weeks now.  If I bake one more cookie before tomorrow (I love baking cookies) I might just fall over and gain more than the 10 pounds that have already settled not so nicely upon my rear end.  I can hear the treadmill calling me and I am trying to ignore it.  Mom's can ignore things like that you know...block sounds and voices out of your hearing for the pure reason of sanity.  Well that is what I am doing to exercise and these cookies are not helping one I am sending them to one of you. 

That's right, one lucky reader will get a package all sweetly wrapped (and mailed if needed) with a few different kinds of cookies (and other goodies) that I have blogged about over the last few weeks.  If you want that person to be you then you had better enter soon because these cookies and my will power (if I have any) are not going to last long.  All you need to do is leave me comment on this post or my face book page and tell me what your favorite cookie of all time is.  It is just that simple and if you need a little more motivation to get busy and enter then here are few good and tasty reminders...
Popcorn gift bag...
Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies...
Chocolate Chip & Oatmeal Quick bread...
Chocolate Peppermint Kisses...
Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Pretzel Cookies (I haven't even posted them yet)...

Can't wait to hear from you.  You only have the weekend, so hurry!!  Winner will be picked at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 18th and then announced Monday morning (I need time to get them delivered).  Sweet cookie giveaway-J

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Handmade Christmas-Initial Ornaments

I love to decorate with a simple initial here and there...


It is an awesome way to personalize a home.  So why not the Christmas Tree?  An initial ornament tied on a box of candy or a gift can add the simple touch that will make a present go from great to FABULOUS! 

I found the white wooden initial at Michael's but almost any craft store has them.  From there you can let your creativeness run wild.  A little paint, a hook screwed into the top, some ribbon and you have a perfect ornament for someone special.

To paint it all I did was use a flat brush and paint a black border around the letter.  Then I used the bottom or end of the brush to make red and green polka dots (just dip the bottom of the brush into the paint and start dotting onto the ornament).  The hook took two people and a little muscle to get started but if you used a little larger one then it would be easier.  Tie some coordinating ribbon and you have a ornament for someone special.

Make one for yourself and that special person on you list.  A simple, inexpensive and personal gift...what could be better?  Sweet ornaments-J

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cookie #3-Chocolate and Peppermint Kisses

Last year I discovered Hershey's peppermint kisses and yes I am a little obsessed with them (if there is one thing that I have learned from this blog it is that I am obsessed with way too many things...oh well I say...oh well).  They are so cute with the red and white stripes.  I knew when I saw them that I had to have them and make something yummy with all that peppermint goodness.  A cookie with a kiss sounded perfect...a chocolate cookie with mini chocolate chips in them and a peppermint kiss sounded perfectly amazing!

The cookie is a variation from a recipe that I found in a Land O Lakes cookbook (if you are a cookbook lover and ever see one of their recipe magazines in the check stand line at the grocery store, don't just peak inside while you are waiting in it because every recipe I have tried is so delicious). 

To make them you need 3 squares of unsweetened baking chocolate, 3 tablespoons of butter or margarine, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 1/2 cups of flour, 3 eggs, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1/3 cup of mini chocolate chips, 1/3 cups sugar (for rolling the cookie in) and 1 (11 ounce) bag of peppermint Hershey Kisses, unwrapped.

To begin place unsweetened chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted.  Once melted add butter/margarine and stir until butter/margarine has melted.  It will thicken up as the butter/margarine melts, so don't worry.  Cool 10 minutes.

Combine melted chocolate mixture, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup flour, eggs and baking powder, beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.  Reduce speed to low; add remaining 3/4 cup flour and mini chocolate chips.  Continue beating just until well mixed.

Let chill in refrigerator for 2 hours or until firm.  Once chilled preheat oven to 300°.  Place 1/3 cup of sugar in a small bowl.  Shape dough into 1" balls (I use an ice cream scoop for uniform cookies) and roll in sugar.  Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until top is cracked and set.  Immediately press one peppermint kiss into each cookie and remove to wire cooling rack.  Be sure to cool completely or until the peppermint kiss is set.

They are festive and perfect.  Make them soon and you will be so happy that you did!!  Sweet kisses-J

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Handmade Christmas-Quick Bread

I don't know about you but I am a sucker for the combination of oatmeal and chocolate.  When I make oatmeal cookies I rarely ever use raisins...I just add obscene amounts of mini chocolate chips (I love mini chips)!!  The other day I was looking through my recipe pile mountain and rediscovered an Oatmeal and Chocolate Chip Quick bread that I have been waiting to try.  It can be neatly layered into a jar with the recipe attached or made into a moist and irresistible loaf.

Lucky for you I am going to show you both yummy ways and you can decide which would be better for your gift giving.  To layer the ingredients you will need a large jar..I used a mason jar.  Begin layering with 1 cup of all-purpose flour (be sure to tap on counter so that each ingredient settles before adding another layer), then 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup of rolled oats (I just used quick cook because I had them), then another cup of all-purpose flour but this time mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the flour before layering.

1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips go on top of that (you could also add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts but I don't care for nuts in my baked goods) and you are finished layering.  Top with the lid, a little fabric and ribbon.  For the tag you want to be sure and give good instructions of how to make it.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Quick Bread

*Mix the contents of the jar in a large bowl.
*In a small bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk, 2 large eggs and 1/4 cup of vegetable oil.
*Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients until evenly moistened (batter should be lumpy).
*Scrape into a greased and floured 9" loaf pan and bake at 350° for about 50 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes our clean.

Attach the tag and you have a perfect gift for someone who loves to bake...

To bake a loaf for someone use the ingredients and directions above but bake it in a foil loaf pan (for easy giving).  Once it has cooled and is ready to gift, wrap it in plastic wrap with some fabric or ribbon and cute tag.  Like this...

NOTE:  I didn't have any buttermilk when I went to bake this bread, so I used 1 1/2 tablespoons of white vinegar and enough milk to make 1 1/2 cups.  Just be sure to let it sit for about 5 minutes and then mix it right in.  It is a great substitution for the buttermilk.  The ratio is 1 tablespoon of vinegar for every cup of milk.

Perfect gift idea for a teacher, neighbor or anyone who loves home baked goodness.  Hope you are enjoying my "Handmade Christmas" series!  Sweet quick bread-J

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Handmade Christmas-Candle Holder fillers

So now we have made a candle holder for $2.00/plus a little glue...not too bad!!!  You could definitely just put a candle in it and call it good but you know me...I like to go one step further.  So here are some great ideas of what would make the perfect addition to an already awesome gift.

A bag of yummy and homemade cookies.  The cookies can't be to wide to fit inside but stacked upon each other and tied with cute ribbon they look delicious...

A few of my friends have a favorite candy (mine would be gummy bears), a bag of them tied with a little fabric and you have a personal and yet tasty filling...

It is Christmas time, so how about filling it with some beautiful ornaments and ornate ribbon to create a sophisticated decoration...

See how I am using this version to decorate for Christmas...

How about a candle surrounded by seasonal candy or a kitchen staple like coffee beans (I used popcorn).  Finish with ribbon and put a smile on someones face...

So there you have it...ideas for how to fill the beautiful and inexpensive candle holder.  The possibilities are endless.  Let your mind go and think of how to personalize it for someone who is on your gift giving list this year.  Sweet genius-J