Friday, December 23, 2011

Gingerbread Pancakes

This is my final featured recipe for my 12 Days of Baking Series. I will be making these tomorrow morning as part of a large Christmas breakfast. I have had fun baking so much over the past month, but I have to tell ya, my waistline and I are ready for a break! I hope you've enjoyed it and hope you've tried out a recipe or two. Thanks for reading and have a very Merry Christmas ya'll!!!

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love baked for me...

Gingerbread Pancakes

3 eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup brewed coffee
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons melted butter

In a large bowl, mix eggs and brown sugar until well combined. Add buttermilk, water and brewed coffee and stir to combine. In another bowl sift together all of the dry ingredients. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the melted butter.

Heat griddle or skillet over medium-high heat and add batter. Cook until bubbles form around the edge of the pancake, then flip. Cook on the second side until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Southwestern Breakfast Casserole

We start our Christmas celebrations bright and early on Christmas Eve morning (tomorrow..yikes!) Our tradition is to open gifts and then have a big breakfast before our 5 other Christmas celebrations over the next 48 hours (yes, we really have 6 Christmases in 48 hours)...

I always make this casserole and it is always a crowd pleaser. This is also a standby for me throughout the year if I'm making breakfast for a crowd.

I'm making this tomorrow morning, so I'll post pics later when I get a chance.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love made for me...

Southwestern Breakfast Casserole

1 dozen eggs
1 16 oz carton sour cream
4 cups monterrey jack cheese
1 lb hot sausage
4 oz chopped green chilies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown and drain the sausage and set aside. Beat eggs with sour cream, green chilies and cheese and add in sausage. Pour into a lightly greased 9 by 13 baking dish. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until eggs set.

Serve with salsa and warm tortillas.

Crockpot Candy

I wanted to post this recipe earlier, but I never actually got around to making it. This past week has been crazy busy! This is usually on my list of Christmas treats to make, but as I said, time just got away from me. Sorry about no pics, but I promise this is easy and well worth trying out!

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love made for me...

Crockpot Candy

16 oz salted peanuts
16 oz unsalted cashews (or unsalted peanuts)
1 bag semi sweet chocolate chips
1 4oz German chocolate baking bar
1 package almond bark

Layer the nuts and chocolate in the listed order above in your crockpot. Turn on low for 3 hours. Spoon out onto wax paper and let cool and set.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Santa's Little Helper

Poor Jack, I sometimes forget he's a real boy and not a dress-up doll... But he's so adorable and it's so much fun to take cute pictures of him! One day he'll appreciate the cute pics of himself as a baby, right? Okay, well probably not, but hopefully his wife will enjoy them!

My mom insisted on this one...I was reeeeeaaaalllll nervous!

Guess who got their two bottom teeth for Christmas?

Pretty lights...


Hey, I like this rocking horsey!

Happy little elf!

Sugar Cookies

Yesterday my Mimi and I spent the day making Christmas sugar cookies. This is a tradition she and I, along with my Aunt Margaret and cousins, did when we were growing up. It has always been one of my favorite Christmas memories. I hope to share this experience with Jack when he gets a little older. It will make all the hard work of making the cookies worth it to see him have fun decorating them!

I discovered that the whole sugar cookie making experience is quite an undertaking and pretty exhausting when you're the grown up. It's way more fun to be the kid who just gets to do the decorating. Not even halfway through frosting I was ready to settle for a few dozen non-iced cookies. Luckily, Mimi pushed through and finished the job up for me. Then later my mom and I added details and prettied them up. I was aspiring to make my cookies as beautiful as my friend Monica's, but that didn't really happen. She says she's been doing this for a long time, so hopefully I'll get better at it with more practice. Even though I wasn't able to do it, I will share her secret to her fabulously beautiful sugar cookies.

I made the White House Sugar Cookies that I shared at Halloween, so I'll just link you to that recipe. But this time I used Royal icing instead of the egg white frosting.

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love baked for me....

White House Sugar Cookies

As I said earlier, my friend Monica makes the most professional looking frosted sugar cookies. She shared her secret with me, and it's piping the outside with Royal icing and then flooding them with Wilton's Color Flow icing. The meringue powder makes the icing dry hard and glossy. I wasn't able to make it to the craft store to buy the meringue powder, so I'll share the Royal icing I used, but I will also link you to the Color Flow icing as well. 

Royal Icing

  • 6 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 8 tablespoons warm water
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract 
  • food coloring
Mix confectioner's sugar with water and almond extract. Pour white icing into separate bowls and color as desired. 

Mimi shared a wonderful secret to make rolling the cookies out easier. Roll the dough out between parchment paper. This made rolling a snap!

Some of my favorites. Add a glass of milk and we're ready for Santa!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Monkey Bread

My mom hosted a beautiful breakfast for the ladies in my family this morning and I decided to make some monkey bread. It was my first time making it, but it will not be my last. It was super easy, super tasty and really fun to eat too :-) I did a search on Pinterest for monkey bread and there were hundreds of pins, but I chose this one because I thought it was the prettiest. Good reason right?

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love baked for me...

Monkey Bread

You'll Need:
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup melted butter - equal to one stick butter
  • 3 10 ounce packages of buttermilk biscuits
- Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle nuts in bottom of Bundt pan. In a side bowl or shallow dish, combine the sugar and the cinnamon. Cut each biscuit section into quarters & roll each section in the sugar/cinnamon mixture. Layer pieces in the bottom of the pan , building rows until all pieces are layered.  Combine melted butter and brown sugar and pour mixture over the dough. Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and puffy. Cool pan for 10 minutes. Invert bread onto cake stand and serve.

And a couple of pics from my mom's breakfast spread...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Day 7- Kraft Fantasy Fudge

This was my first, and possibly last time to make fudge. I followed the recipe on the back of the marshmallow creme jar, thinking it would be a snap, because well, the directions were simple enough. But.. I had the bright idea to switch out one of the ingredients, and I think that may have contributed to this fudge's pain-in-the-rear status. It called for a can of evaporated milk, but I usually replace recipes that call for evaporated milk with sweetened condensed milk (to richen the flavor). This time, I don't think it was the best idea. While it worked, and the fudge tasted good, it was extremely hard to bring to a boil, which made it difficult to completely melt the sugar, therefore the fudge ended up with a bit of a grainy texture.

So...if you have an easy fudge recipe (I think I've even heard of making it in the microwave???) PLEASE let me know and I will try it next year!

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love baked for me....

Kraft "Fantasy Fudge"

  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 small can (5oz) evaporated milk
  • 12 squares Baker's semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 jar jet-puffed marshmallow creme
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Bring sugar, butter and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and marshmallow creme, stir until well melted. Add nuts and vanilla. Pour into 9 inch pan and let cool completely. 

**note, I do not recommend substituting sweetened condensed milk for the evaporated milk!**

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gingerbread Cheesecake Bites

Today's recipe comes from a pin I found on Pinterest. Like yesterday's treat, these are super easy and only 4 ingredients! I won't be able to bake this weekend, but be sure you check back next week for more recipes, including some of my favorite Christmas breakfasts, easy crock-pot candy (great for gifts), and more!

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love baked for me...

Gingerbread Cheesecake Bites

  • 30oz roll Pillsbury gingerbread cookie dough
  • 4 oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Roll gingerbread cookie dough into balls (about 2 tsp each) and place in mini muffin liners. Create a well in the cookie dough using the back end of a mini rolling pin. Place the rolling pin in powdered sugar first to prevent sticking. Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla in mixer. Put cream cheese mixture in a piping bag (or ziplock like I did) and fill each with a teaspoon or so of the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Peppermint Oreo Truffles

This time last year I hosted a cookie exchange for my fabulous friends. I'll never forget that day. Afterall, it was the day I was introduced to Oreo balls, and a girl doesn't soon forget a day like that now does she? I really wish I was having another cookie exchange this year, but unfortunately, with so much going on, it just didn't work out. So... I thought I'd make Oreo balls as one of my 12 days of baking. I decided to put a little holiday spin on them by adding the peppermint garnish. I got the idea from Starbuck's peppermint brownie cake pops. These. Are. So. Easy! And only 4 ingredients... Enjoy!

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love (non) baked for me...

Peppermint Oreo Truffles

  • 1 package double stuffed Oreos
  • 1 package vanilla coating (you could also use white chocolate)
  • 4 oz cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy
Chop Oreos finely in a food processor. Mix cookies with the softened cream cheese. (I started with a spoon, but honestly it's easiest to hand mix.) Roll into 1 inch balls and freeze for 15 minutes. Melt vanilla coating according to package directions, dip chilled Oreo balls in coating. Sprinkle with peppermint candy and let the coating set. Refrigerate.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bourbon Balls & Bourbon Cheesecake Brownies

My husband has been asking me to bake him something with a little kick. This month's Southern Living featured a section of desserts for bourbon lovers, which was right up his alley. Both desserts got his stamp of approval :)

On the third day of Christmas my true love baked for me...

Bourbon Balls

  • 1 box vanilla wafers, finely crushed
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup bourbon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • Powdered sugar for rolling
1. Crush vanilla wafers in food processor. Separately, chop pecans in food processor.
2. Stir together the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl until well blended.
3. Stir together bourbon and corn syrup until well blended. Stir together bourbon mixture and wafer mixture. Shape into 1-inch balls; roll in extra powdered sugar. Cover and chill up to 2 weeks.

These no-bake treats are like dessert and after dinner drinks rolled (literally) into one. They certainly pack a punch and would be great to take to a holiday party. Just be sure kids know they're for adults only!

And on the fourth day of Christmas my true love baked for me...

Bourbon Cheesecake Brownies

  • 4 (1oz) unsweetened chocolate baking squares
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour (or use the nifty Pam for baking like I did) a 9 inch square pan. 
2. Microwave chocolate squares and butter in a large microwave-safe bowl on high 1-2 minutes or until melted and smooth. Whisk in brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Add 3 eggs, 1 at a time, whisking just until blended after each addition. Whisk in vanilla, salt, and 1 cup flour. Spread half of batter in prepared pan.
3. Beat cream cheese until smooth; add 2 tablespoons flour and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar, beating until blended. Add bourbon and remaining 1 egg, beating until blended.
4. Pour cream cheese mixture over brownie mixture and top with remaining brownie batter. Swirl together.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely. 

*Note* My hubby asked for these to be served cold, so I cooled them in the fridge and they were really good that way!

These brownies seemed cakey at first (because I tested them before they were completely cooled), but after I tried them again when they were refrigerated, they were dense and rich and divine! There is a very subtle bourbon flavor that gives them a little something extra. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Perfect Gingerbread Muffins

On the second day of Christmas my true love baked for me...

Perfect Gingerbread Muffins

Dry Ingredients:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Scant teaspoon baking soda (a little less than a tsp)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Wet Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted shortening
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • Sugar in the raw
Mix all wet ingredients in mixing bowl, sift all dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Pour into muffin liners or greased muffin tins. I filled mine to the top so they would be large. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar in the raw just before the muffins set. 

These muffins are super moist and tasty. Plus, bonus, they make your house smell wonderful and Christmasy! Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bourbon Glaze for Eggnog Pound Cake

This morning, as I was straightening my hair (random I know), it occurred to me that I should have put a bourbon glaze on the eggnog pound cake. Because I mean let's face it, eggnog is really served best with a little nip, right? Here's the glaze recipe for the classic Bacardi rum cake, but I replaced the rum with bourbon. The next time I make this cake, I'll definitely add the glaze. Let me know if you try it out!

Bourbon Glaze

* 1/2 cup butter
* 1/4 cup water
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup good bourbon

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in bourbon. Note: The bourbon will cause steam. Be careful not to burn yourself.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The 12 Days of Baking

I love to bake, and usually in December I'm spending lots of quality time with my Kitchen Aid anyway, so I've decided to start Project The 12 Days of Baking. I'll bake some of my holiday favorites, along with several new recipes that I've been wanting to try. I hope you'll check back often to see what's been going on in my kitchen. 

First up, Eggnog Pound Cake. I saw it in this month's Southern Living and knew immediately that I would have to try it out. Most people either love eggnog or hate it. I happen to love it, so this really appealed to me. It's rich, yet light, and the eggnog flavor isn't too overpowering. The best part is, it's super easy and is made from only 5 ingredients!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love baked for me....

Eggnog Pound Cake

5 simple ingredients: 1 16oz package pound cake mix, 1 1/4 cups eggnog, 2 large eggs, 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg and 1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix everything together and beat for 2 minutes

Pour into lightly greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. 

Garnish with powdered sugar and serve!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

O Christmas Tree

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday. I had a busy week off, but I sure have enjoyed being home with my little one- I could definitely get used to this SAHM thing!

Every year after Thanksgiving I start to get excited about Black Friday. I usually get a thrill out of the crowds and chaos,  but this year I just wasn't feeling it. I decided to stay home with Jack and get my Christmas put up. I didn't get as far as I had hoped with my decorating, but I did get my tree all trimmed and it turned out beautiful, if I do say so myself. My tree is extremely special to me because I inherited all of my ornaments from my Aunt Margaret. She loved the holidays so much...she never lost that childhood awe of them, as adults sometimes do. My fondest childhood memories of Christmas are with her, and her spirit lives on every year when I put up my tree. She lived in New York City in a tiny apartment, yet she always had 2 full size trees, decked out to the max with Christopher Radko ornaments. She would put her tree up after Halloween and leave it up into the New Year. Here is a picture of us from Thanksgiving 1997 in her apartment in New York. Forgive the quality, as this is a picture of a picture, but you can get the idea of how beautiful she was, and her tree!

Every year I kick off the holiday season by putting my tree up. I blast my Christmas playlist, make some rich hot chocolate and get busy putting up my million and one ornaments. I cannot wait to share this tradition with Jack, though, perhaps we may get new, more kid friendly ornaments for next year ;-) 
The pictures really don't do these ornaments justice, but here are a few of my favorites. Also, I will post more pics of my holiday decor as I get it up. 

I love Halloween so much it even shows up on my Christmas tree

One of many intricate Santa's

Three Wise Men 


Salted Hot Chocolate 

Vanilla and a touch of salt make this hot chocolate extra special!

Mix 2 tablespoons good cocoa powder with 2 tablespoons sugar and a dash of salt. Microwave 2 cups milk with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until bubbling (about 2 mins). Whisk together well.

And of course, top with lots of marshmallows! Cheers to the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Activities for Kids

This will be my second year hosting Thanksgiving at my house. We have several kids in our family, age 3-7, so this year I thought it would be fun to set up a craft for the kiddos to work on after we've eaten. I got this idea from Pinterest and also did it with my second graders. It turned out super cute and I can't wait to do it with my little cousins on Thanksgiving Day!

Pinecone Turkeys

What You'll Need:
- Pinecones
-Brown Felt (you can also use brown pompoms)
- Google Eyes
- Red Pipe-cleaner
- Construction Paper
-Hot Glue
-Elmer's Glue

I freehand drew a turkey head on the brown felt. Add the eyes and twist the pipe-cleaner like a corkscrew for the waddle. Cut orange construction paper into a small diamond and fold in half for the beak. Cut small feathers from various colored construction paper and have the kids write something they're thankful for on each feather. You can use hot glue for everything, but I used Elmer's for the eyes, beak, and feathers and hot glued everything else. Just make sure if you use Elmer's, you're generous with it. These little turkeys will make great centerpieces for the kid's table at Thanksgiving lunch! 

Here are some that my second graders made:

I also found this printable coloring placemat for my Thanksgiving kid's table (again, thanks Pinterest). It will keep the kids busy while they're waiting on lunch!

To find this FREE printable, as well as other cute Thanksgiving printables, click on the image above. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

6 Months Already?

Happy 6 months to my sweet little boy!!! It's so hard to believe he's half a year already. I know all of you moms out there know what I mean when I say that everyday with him is like unwrapping a surprise gift you didn't know you were going to get. He discovers something new everyday and I know it's just going to keep getting better. He's getting pretty good at sitting up by himself, so today I let him sit up in his bathtub rather than laying in the infant sling and it totally made my day. He discovered, soaking mom splashing. He had an absolute ball! It was the cutest thing. Being a mom has changed me in ways I never thought possible, and that little boy just steals my heart more and more with every passing day. I love you so much mister boy!

Easy Fall Dinner

Between the internet and being a bit cheap, I have really gotten out of the habit of buying magazines. This is a big change for me because I used to be the queen of the couch with my Blue Bell (that's ice cream for all of you northern folks) and InStyle, Vogue or Cottage and Country Living (ironic combo you may think, but that's just me for you...) I'd always get a thrill out of the shiny pages and the smell. I really miss those days...but I digress. Yesterday, while waiting in the atrocious line at the grocery store, I got sucked into this month's Southern Living, which got me in the mood to start some Thanksgiving'ish cooking a little early.

Roasted chicken with veggies is a staple in the dinner rotation at our house. It's cheap, it's easy and it's pretty healthy! I try to use veggies that are in season, so this week I bought some root vegetables. I also grabbed some rosemary because I thought it would pair nicely with the rustic veggies. While I don't have an exact recipe I follow or anything, here is how I cook my chicken.

Rough chop your veggies. I leave them in pretty big pieces so they don't fall apart. Here I used sweet potatoes, carrots (real carrots, not the little stubby fake ones), parsnips, onions and whole cloves of smashed garlic (smashing it, but leaving it whole lets the oils really flavor the whole dish.) Other veggies I've done are zucchini, onion, carrots and regular potatoes. But you could basically do anything!

I take about a tablespoon of real butter (room temp) and rub the chicken skin- this helps the skin brown nicely when cooking. Then I salt and pepper the hell out of it and today I also used fresh rosemary. I also stuff the cavity with rosemary (stems and all). You can also use fresh thyme or any other herbs you like. I like to use lemons and their juice, but I wasn't sure it would go with these veggies. Normally I'd juice the lemon over the chicken and then stuff the squeezed lemons in the cavity with my herbs. Next, s&p your veggies and pour chicken broth over them until it's nearly covering them. I also put a generous amount of olive oil on the veggies and chicken. 

My general rule of thumb is bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 mins per pound, plus 15 minutes.

I decided to try the pecan pie muffins from Southern Living for dessert. Pie is one of my weaknesses (get that from my mom & dad...thanks guys) and I especially love fall pies like pecan and pumpkin, so I thought the pecan pie muffins sounded delish- and boy was I right! Even my husband, who claims not to like desserts with nuts, tried them and asked for another :-) 

Click the title link to find the recipe at 

Luckily I had all of the ingredients for these muffins at home already, since I found the recipe at the end of my shopping trip.

Create a "well" in your dry ingredients and pour the wet in. Mix until just moistened.

Fill the bottom of the muffin tins with finely chopped pecans and fill to the top with batter.

These muffins are so yum. They're a little crunchy from the pecans and the caramelization of the brown sugar, yet moist and crumbly too. They're great for dessert or would make a sinfully good breakfast treat. Can't wait to have some with my coffee in the morning!

* Important note *

I used muffin liners because I was still a little scared from the sticking fiasco with my mini pumpkin pies. But because the brown sugar caramelizes so much in these muffins, the liners are difficult to get off, so I do not recommend using them.