Newlyweds navigating their way through married life – and the kitchen

Tag Archives: Christmas

Angel Sugar Cookies

Last Friday started out like any other day a week and a half before Christmas at Sandy Hook Elementary School – Christmas pageant preparations – final touches on Christmas wish lists to Santa.  But it soon turned into a nightmare, a day that changed a community and the lives of 26 families forever, when 6 heroic faculty members and 20 innocent first graders lost their lives to an unspeakable tragedy.

Our hearts are heavy with a wide range of emotions being felt, not just here in New England, but all over the world.  That feeling of relief that it didn’t happen in our town, to our family or friends, that we can still hold our loved ones close to us, knowing that they’re safe, contrasts with the feeling of guilt that it wasn’t us who it happened to – that we still can hug and kiss our loved ones whenever we want, and that there are 26 families out there that will never have the chance to do that again.  The world can be a scary and confusing place sometimes, and in my 30 years on this planet, this is one of those times where I can’t seem to wrap my head around what has happened to these people, and why – why?

I know that no matter how many tears are shed, and screams of anger and frustration are uttered, it won’t change that they’re gone. But we can honor their memories in so many ways – and that is what these angel cookies are – 26 angel cookies for those 26 angels who were taken from us too soon.

Angel Sugar Cookies
*Adapted from Land O’ Lakes & Peppermint Plum

INGREDIENTS
*this is actually halved from the original recipe and strangely enough, made just about 26 angel cookies.  I think it would yield about 2 & 1/2 dozen medium sized sugar cookies though.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted utter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1.5 teaspoons. vanilla

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 & 3/4 cups flour

Wilton© White Chocolate melting discs

Flipz©  White Chocolate Covered Pretzels (2 bags)

Mini Chocolate Chips

Twizzler Pull & Peel Licorice

Various sprinkles

*Decorating these is obviously your choice! I kept it simple, but you could use different color frosting, sprinkles, get creative!

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2) In mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla and then the sour cream.

3) In a medium sized mixing bowl, sift together the salt, baking soda, and flour, and add to the butter/sugar/egg/sour cream mixture.

3) Roll out on a WELL floured surface to about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick. (this dough is pretty sticky and tough to handle, so make sure you have lots of flour!)  These are meant to be nice and thick and chewy so make sure to not roll the dough too thin.

4) First, cut out small circles for the angel heads with either a cookie cutter or you could even use a shot glass as your ‘cutter’ – about the diameter of a tablespoon (that’s what I did).  Carefully transfer with a spatula onto one cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray.  Next, with the rest of the dough, cut out the angel bodies.  I actually used a gingerbread girl cutter that I had and just cut the arms off.  You could also just eye ball a triangle with a knife.

Angel Sugar Cookies

5) Bake these for only about 7-8 minutes.  They may still look undone, but that is what will make them chewy and soft, not overcooking them.  After 8 minutes, let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes, and then remove them to a wire rack.

6) While the cookies are cooling, you can melt your candy melts in a double boiler.  Once the heads have cooled, you can ‘put their faces on’.  Dip the tops of the heads in chocolate and then in the sprinkles to make the ‘hair’.  Then, I used two mini chocolate chips for the eyes and a small piece of string licorice for the mouth (I used the pull & peel kind, since that’s a bit more pliable than the regular string licorice).  Simply dab a small amount of the white chocolate onto the face and then place the eyes and mouth on top.  Hold in place for about 30 seconds until the chocolate dries.  Get creative with these faces!  There’s so many fun things you can do!

Angel Sugar Cookies

7) To assemble the angel bodies, take 2 White Flipz, dip them in the melted chocolate, and then flip the angel body over and adhere them to the back of the cookie, holding for a few seconds to let them stick.  This will form the wings.  Then, dip the bottoms of each cookie in the melted chocolate and dip in sprinkles.  If you have left over chocolate like I did, you can drizzle it over the angel bodies to add some zing.  Get creative with this too!

Angel Sugar Cookies

8) Once you have your bodies and heads ready, take the remaining chocolate and smear a dab of it onto the back of the angel head, and then stick it on to the body.  Hold it there with your finger to hold in place until it sticks.  And there you will have your angels 🙂

Couple Tips for these:

1) I personally thought it was easier to prepare the heads and bodies separately and then stick them together, but you could also put the head on top of the body and bake them together as one cookie, vs. having to assemble them later.  Might save you some time.

2) For the mouths, I used the Licorice, however, I would recommend just getting one of those mini tubes of red or pink frosting for the mouth of each angel.  Trying to get the licorice to stick was somewhat of a trying process, so I think the frosting would be a lot simpler and look just as cute!

Angel Sugar Cookies

While these were time consuming and a bit of a process, even on a Monday night after a full day of work, I didn’t mind it.  It was almost theraputic in a way, watching each little angel come to life.  This really is a fantastic sugar cookie recipe though, for any cookie decorating you’re planning to do with the kids.  And with these angels, you can really let them get creative with different frosting/sprinkles/hair color/etc.  I decided not to add Halos onto these angels, but you could certainly do that as well.

They certainly weren’t the most perfect looking angels in the world – they were different shapes and sizes – some of their eyes were closer together than others – but the same can be said about all the boys and girls that lost their life on Friday – they were all different shapes and sizes with their own personalities and smiles, and as angels, they’ll be just the same 🙂


*I truly can’t say enough how so very sorry I am to the families of those lost in yesterday’s tragedy – so many thoughts, prayers and condolences to all of you

* * * * *

Well ladies and gents, we’re about a week and a half away til’ Santa squeezes those rosy buns down the chimney.  And I’ve been thinking recently about how much I love this time of year – I really do just love it, maybe a little more every year. But there are some items that seem just a little more special during the holidays – here’s my list:

BUTTER

Favorite Holiday Things

I don’t even want to know how much butter I’ve used in the last few weeks – but if I added it up, I’m sure I could have a small sized toddler made entirely of butter.  Holiday recipes aren’t meant to be ‘butterless’ so hell, add an extra tablespoon or two – you’ll be back to the gym with the rest of the world on January 2nd, sweating yellow butter sweat.

COOKIES

Holiday FAvorite Things

Do yourself a favor – make these

For breakfast – for lunch – for an afternoon snack and then dessert (if not for dinner too) What is it about Christmas that makes people cookie crazy? They make amazing gifts and even better desserts so go ahead, try that new cookie recipe you’ve been eyeing all year – if there was any time to do it, now is it!

COCKTAILS

Favorite Holiday Things

Cherry Pomegranate Sangria – a Christmas Winner! Click here for the recipe!

December = parties: work parties – family parties – parties for one – christmas eve – christmas day – new years eve – champagne – wine – ‘special punch’ – one tequila – two tequila – three tequila – FLOOR.

Drink up kids – your liver will also be back to the gym on January 2nd with a nice tall H2O on the rocks – so go ahead, get the family size Advil and finish that bottle of pinot! You know you wanna…come on now…

FAMILY AND FRIENDS

Favorite Holiday Things

Last year’s Holiday Gathering of my High School friends where we all dressed as our favorite Christmas character. Can you guess who’s who? I know…we’re a strange bunch…I think it was the water…

It could be your mom, a cousin, a BFFAOT (Apart Or Together – I saw you scratching your head) or your next door neighbor.  The holidays are meant for spending time with the ones you care about the most in life and it doesn’t mean that if you don’t have a huge family with first, second and third cousins coming out of the woodwork that you can’t have just as great a time celebrating with a new friend, a co-worker, or heck even Fido the dog!

THINGS THAT SPARKLE

HOilday favorite things

Shamefully bedazzled things of all shapes and sizes: wrapping paper – sparkly tops and dresses – a Clark Griswold portion of christmas lights.  A line from an old favorite song of mine says “All that shimmers in this world is sure to fade away…” and while it’s slightly depressing and has NOTHING to do with Christmas, I feel as though it’s fitting.  This is the only time of year where excessive sparkle is not only encouraged, it’s mandatory.

SPECIAL ORNAMENTS

ornaments

When you’re a kid and you open something like 1) underwear 2) new boots 3) a christmas ornament, after subtly rolling your eyes and looking around for the next box that looks like something more desirable that you can actually use for a whole day and then get sick of, well you don’t realize the importance of things that those ‘old people’ tell you that ‘someday you’ll appreciate’.  Nothing could be more true than my Aunt Mary’s ornaments – every Christmas, she and Uncle Charlie would host the family for a Christmas party – Santa came – sounded eerily like our Great Uncle Dave, but of COURSE it was just a coincidence – and we’d get our gift from Santa’s sack, usually something small that was on our list but not Nintendo or Teddy Ruxpin – a more modest gift like a barbie or G.I. Joe.

Aunt Mary was an amazing painter – amazing actually doesn’t even accurately describe it.  But she would hand paint – HAND paint – an ornament for every.single.grandchild (got all the way up to 17 + 2 great grand’s!) So holy mother of god – I cannot even imagine how long it took her to get all of these done.  But every curve on the face of every snowman she painted was perfect, and we’d all say “Thank you Aunt Mary”, tossing the ornament to our mom’s to hold onto so we could get back to Polly Pocket or whatever ridiculous toy we got.  But now, so many years later, they mean probably more to me than any stupid gift I ever got as a kid.  And she knew that us dumb kids might not realize how special they were just then, but she knew that someday we would.  Damn she was smart 🙂

And well, the list could go on and on and ON and on…but you all get the idea and I’m sure have your own favorites that make the Holidays that time of year that is enjoyed so much so, that it seems it’s over as quickly as it began.  So take this next week and a half and savor each and every moment! Each and every favorite! And share some please – I’d love to know what makes the Holidays special for you 🙂


Mint Cookie Dough Ball

When I was young, there were many things that I wasn’t able to do because I was “too young” – and I swore, when I got older, G’damnit I was gonna DO IT! Stupid things like staying up late – eating McDonalds as many times a week as I wanted – and eating as much raw cookie dough as I could stand whenever making cookies.

For some reason, I have vivid memories of  making cookies with my mom when I was a wee young thing, and always wanting to stick my face in that buttery, sugary chocolate chipy goodness that was the cookie dough, right before it went into the oven.  Or when we did slice and bake, I always thought “One slice for me, one slice for the oven” – but nooooooo – “you’ll get a tummy ache” – “that’s not good for you” – “get your fingers out of there!” – augh, the trials and tribulations of my adolescence.

I found one of the most sinful and genius looking concoctions on Picky Palate’s blog for a Peppermint Crunch Cookie Dough Ball – um, WHAT? I suspect maybe she was denied many a raw cookie dough sample as a child too to come up with this amazingly genius idea for indulging in cookie dough without worrying about the raw eggs.   I modified hers a smidgen, to still be minty, but CHOCOLATEY instead and all I can say is, take that mom!

Mint Chocolate Cookie Dough Ball
*Adapted from Picky Palate

INGREDIENTS

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon mint extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup your favorite brownie mix
(I used Ghiradelli)

1 cup mini-chocolate chips

8-10 Andes Mints, chopped into small pieces

*Confectioners Sugar

Mint Cookie Dough Ball

1) In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined and fluffy.  Then add the mint extract.

2) In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the salt, flour and brownie mix.  Then add gradually to the butter and sugar mixture and mix on low speed until all the ingredients start to combine together.

3) When the dough starts to form, you can add the mini chips and Andes Mints and mix by hand with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.

4) Transfer the dough onto a piece of wax paper and form into a ball with your hands.  The dough will be quite sticky, so I layed some confectioners sugar out (not a lot, just enough to lessen the stickiness – probably about 1 or 2 tablespoons) and rolled the dough in that, just to take the sticky edge off.

5) Roll the dough ball in fun Christmas sprinkles or leave as is!  Serve with Oreos, animal crackers, graham crackers…the options are endless.

I felt like a kid again last night, licking my fingers eating as much of this delicious dough as  I wanted without anyone telling me I couldn’t! Oh what fun!

But, after one too many dips and a lingering sugar hangover today, it didn’t take long for me to realize that most times in life, you should listen to your mom 🙂

*Many apologies for the meh photos – don’t let this stop you from trying this recipe! It’s delicious! Hairy and I were partying late last night while Dave was at his Hockey Game and my pictures suffered as a result…

Mint Cookie Dough Ball


Lemon Surprise CookiesMy Uncle Jimmy is a great and funny guy – a creature of habit if you will.

On summer days when I’d be over playing with my cousins Erin and Jen, he’d come home from work every day at noon on the dot, watch t.v. for a bit, and eat his lunch with one of ten bags of ‘Tri-Sum’ potato chips on top of the fridge.  At every holiday, when stocking the fridge or cooler, you’d see at least 1 liter or a few cans of Coke, an Uncle Jimmy necessity.  There’s a comfort in people like my Uncle Jim, in their predictability and routine – they make you feel like in this crazy world we live in that changes every hour of every day, that as long as there’s ice-cold Coke in the fridge and potato chips for lunch, than all will be o.k with the world.

But….since he’s retired….he’s gone a little crazy….

Lemon Surprise Cookies

…doing things like growing goatees – going to Ireland for bachelor parties and drinking whisky! WITHOUT Coke! And much to my delight, he’s developed a knack for baking, which I discovered at Thanksgiving.

Of 75 desserts on the table, you really need to strategize your plan of attack.  But there was one dessert on the table that I noticed was new, not one of the old stand by’s like my Aunt Kathy’s Eclair Ring or my cousin Jen’s picture perfect trifle.  These little bite size, ball shaped cookies with chocolate drizzle.  I popped one in my mouth, and not only was it delicious, but it had a surprise chocolate kiss interior – and after I ate about 1/2 dozen of them I said “ok, who made these?”  And who was the culprit?

Uncle Jim.  Who knew?

Now this past weekend, I tried making them for a cookie swap.  I followed the recipe to a T and waited with baited breath for them to come out of the oven.  But when it was time to take them out, they looked NOTHING like Uncle Jim’s – TASTED nothing like them either – they were a hot mess of cookie, pun intended.  Honestly, I have no idea what happened.  My theory is that perhaps I chilled the dough for too long (the original recipe called for some chilling time to make the dough easier to handle, which is pretty standard with shortbread recipes) Disappointed was an understatement, because I was so excited to showcase these.

I woke up Sunday morning though, feeling determined to get these right, so I tried AGAIN using a different shortbread recipe, this time not chilling the dough and making a few other changes here and there, and B.I.N.G.O! Success!

Lemon Surprise Cookies
*Uncle Jim (and pillsbury & simple bites)

INGREDIENTS
*makes about 6 dozen

3 sticks of unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon lemon extract

3 & 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 bag (13 oz) KISSES® milk chocolates, unwrapped

Powdered sugar

8 oz. milk chocolate, melted
(about 1/2 bag chocolate chips – I used Trader Joe’s 1lb Milk Chocolate Bar)

Lemon Surprise Cookies

1) Preheat oven to 350°F.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the lemon extract.

3) In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together.

4) Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and bring everything together with your hands.  Take about 1/2 tbsp. of the dough and wrap it around the hershey kiss.
*This step is key, as you really only want enough dough to just cover the hershey kiss.  If you use too much dough (which is another mistake I made first time around) the shortbread will flatten out on the bottom, making the finished product look more like little hats instead of balls. 

5) Take the dough-wrapped hershey kiss and roll it in between the palms of your hands to form a ball.  Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

6) Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set and bottom edges are light golden brown. Cool 1 minute then remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely, about 15 minutes on wire racks.

7) Lightly sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar. In a double boiler or microwave, melt the chocolate and drizzle over each cookie.

Lemon Surprise Cookies

While being slightly labor intensive, the end result is well worth it as this slightly lemon flavored shortbread has a chocolatey surprise center and the recipe makes a TON, so they’re perfect for gift giving or swapping – 1 batch will make more cookies than you’ll know what to do with!

So thanks for the recipe Uncle Jim! Keep livin’ that ‘crazy’ retired life – it looks good on you 🙂


Snowman Cake Balls

I’ve mentioned my cousin Erin before in my ‘Easier Than Ina’s Pecan Squares‘ post a while back.  Well, she’s getting a shout out again.  Erin lives in L.A, doing casting for all kinds of fun shows like Hell’s Kitchen, Nanny 911 and even the Biggest Loser (which clearly is a conflict of interest based on her baking talents) and the few times a year that she’s home, I think myself and the rest of my family feel like it’s our celebrity family member coming home from Hollywood to grace us with her presence and fill us in on all the latest goings on in Tinsel Town.

kateerinLike any hot L.A. celeb, Erin’s always reinventing herself and her style, rocking the sassiest of outfits and accessories that only someone who lived in L.A could pull off.  So in addition to guessing what color nail polish and lipstick she’ll be wearing when she comes home, we also loveeeee being ‘tasting guinea pigs’ to all her latest baked goodies from her side business, BellaBoos Bakery.  And she never disappoints in that department either.  The dessert table grows exponentially any time Erin’s home for the holidays, and last year, it grew to include these ADORABLE snowmen cake pops, almost too cute to eat, but let’s be honest – nothing is that cute 🙂

Snowman Cake Balls (or pops)
*My Celebrity Baker Cousin Erin

INGREDIENTS
*yields 18 snowmen

1 box cake mix, made according to instructions
(I used chocolate devils food cake mix)

1/2 cup of chocolate frosting (or flavor of your choice)

White melting chocolate
(I used Wilton’s white chocolate melting discs (2 – 12oz bags) – I would HIGHLY recommend using these…you’ll see why later)

Oreo cookies, 2 sizes – the mini sized and regular sized ones

Mini chocolate chips

orange tic-tacs

Snowman Cake Balls

1) Prepare your cake mix according to the instructions.  Once it has baked and cooled, crumble it up into pieces and place in a large mixing bowl.

2) Add frosting to the cake – a lot of recipes for cake balls/pops call for the entire can of frosting, however I think this is far too much.  I only used 1/2 cup and it was plenty.  The cake itself is already quite moist, so personally, I think too much frosting can make it too mooshy, but start with 1/2 cup and feel free to add more until your cake ball dough reaches your desired consistency.

3) Take a good scoop of the dough (maybe 1/4 cup or so, depending on how large you want your snowmen to be – 1/4 cup will yield about 18 balls/snowmen) and roll it into a ball.  Place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Once all your balls have been rolled, place them in the fridge to chill for about an hour (this just ensures that they’ll stay together when you dip them in the chocolate).

4) While your balls are chilling, prep your ‘top hats’ by pulling apart an Oreo cookie, scraping the cream off the sides, and placing the single cookie on wax paper, with a mini oreo on top.

5) Melt your chocolate discs in a double boiler.  Once your chocolate has melted, start by taking just a little smidge of it to fuse the mini oreo to the larger one to make your hats.  Then, with the remaining chocolate, dip your chilled cake balls in the chocolate with a toothpick or skewer of some sort, letting the excess chocolate drip a bit, then placing them on the wax paper.

6) Take your mini chocolate chips, making 2 eyes, a mouth, and then stick the orange tic tac in the center to make his ‘nose’.  For the final touch, put that top hat on Frosty’s head – it’s winter for goodness sakes! Heat escapes through your head! (even if you are a snowman)

I must admit, these snowmen caused some heartache and frustration, and the source of that was brought on by the seemingly difficult task of melting white chocolate.  I never have problems with milk or dark, but white….ohhhhh white….pain in my rump.

On my first try, I actually used Ghiradelli White Chocolate Chips.  When I melted them in the double boiler, they turned to a big pasty ball of yuckniess, and I tried to remedy this by adding cream, which seemed to do the trick, however, when I went to dip the snowmen, well, let’s just say the finished product looked like a snowman does in March (see below)

Snowman Cake Balls

sad, melty snowman

So I sent a frustrated email the next morning to none other than celebrity baker cousin Erin, and this is what she said:

Picture1

She typed the words right out of my mouth.

So to Michaels I went, gave it another go last night and the results were amazing! My sad, melty snowman became the happy, smiling ball of white stuff that I knew he was meant to be 🙂

Snowman Cake Balls

“And the children say he could laugh and play just the same as you and me!”

By the end of the night, I couldn’t help but smile back at Frosty – he just looked so happy….

But then I ate him…and one of his friends…I think getting eaten is a lot less painful than a slow melty death don’t you?


y Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I’ve mentioned before that my family is pretty serious about desserts – well, they’re even more serious about cookie swaps, or so I learned this weekend.

My Grammy Murphy is quite the grandmother – she was the first of anyone to get AOL, email and a ‘screen name’, her recipes for things like whoopie pies and pecan rolls are legendary (even though they never taste quite as good as when she makes them), and at 84, she still manages to have more style than I will ever have in my entire lifetime.  AND, her new digs at the Assisted Living facility she just recently moved into are straight up 5-star, making Dave and I’s ‘love nest’ look like just that – a nest – made of sticks – where birds live.  But if anyone deserves a sweet pad to hang their hat, it’s grammy Murphy – so that makes me just a little less bitter about it 🙂

My mom organized a cookie swap with all my Aunt’s this weekend to put some trays together for all those fab people who are there to help my grandparents on a day -to-day basis and everyone dawned their best baked goods and prettiest bows and ribbons to make some seriously good looking goody trays.  cookie swapComing from a family that loves to bake, I think that the best part of the holiday season is that a huge tray of freshly baked treats wrapped up in cellophane and tied with a bow can be just as great a gift as a cashmere scarf or that blender you’ve been eyeing all year – and appreciated just as much, if not more, because there’s the added ingredient of TLC in them!

One of my favorites are these amazingly easy to make Chocolate Dipped Pretzels.  I can’t remember when my cousin Jen started making these, but like many other things in the Murphy Family, they must be present on the dessert table for at least one Holiday to avoid stomping, shouting and crying fits – and that’s just my reaction!  Pretty basic I know – pretzel – chocolate – dip – let dry – repeat.  But, she took them to a new level by adding fun toppings and even hidden surprises like a slab of peanut butter hidden under the chocolate.  So while being visually appealing, they’re equally as tummy appealing, especially when you bite into one and say “Wait, is that….is THAT what I think it is?”.

Holiday Chocolate Pretzels
* Adapted from my cousin Jen (if you think these are good, you should see her Trifle!) and Twist, A Unique Approach to Pretzels

INGREDIENTS

mini salted pretzels

milk/dark/white chocolate (one or all three!)
*again, I use the Trader Joe’s 1lb chocolate bars and Ghiradellis’ White Chocolate Chips

Toppings galore!
*For today, I chose Holiday Sprinkles, Heath Bits, Chopped Almonds, Coconut, Peanut Butter, Fluff and Nutella, but seriously, sky is the limitChocolate Covered Pretzels

1) Lay out your pretzels on wax paper-lined cookie sheets or wire racks.

2) In a double boiler (or in the microwave), temper your chocolate.  To temper, take about 2/3 of the chocolate and place it in the double boiler (or microwave-safe dish). When the chocolate starts to really melt, remove it from the heat and add the remaining unmelted chocolate to the pan, stirring constantly until it melts into the melted stuff.  The tempering will provide a nice shiny looking chocolate and avoid those unsightly little white spots that can sometimes pop up on chocolate.  If you’re doing 2 or 3 different kinds of chocolate, be sure to repeat this process with each kind.

3) Assemble your pretzels:

For the Peanut Butter/Fluff pretzel – on one half of your pretzel, take about 1/2 tsp. of peanut butter and 1/2 tsp. of fluff, and stick them on the 1/2 of the pretzel that will go in the chocolate.  Then dip that side in the chocolate and place on wax paper to dry.  Top with sprinkles (or if you’re feeling really fiesty, mini peanut butter chocolate chips or rescees pieces!)

For the Nutella Pretzel – repeat the same process as above, only with Nutella.  Top with sprinkles like I did, or for the fiesty (and not cheap like I am) dipper, sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts on the top.

For the Heath Bar Pretzel – dip pretzel in chocolate (with no filling) and sprinkle with Heath Bits (you can find those in the baking section a the grocery store)

For the Almond Joy Pretzel – same as above, and sprinkle with chopped almonds (I used the sliced almonds) and coconut

y Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Honestly people, I think the thing I love so much about these is that your options are essentially endless – I had soooo many other ideas but 1) it’s a week night and 2) I still have a sugar hangover from the swap yesterday, so I kept my pretzels to a minimum.  But really, you could do a spin on the last post, and do Dark Mint Chocolate with either Oreo crumbles or Peppermint bits.  These are fun, so easy, and a serious crowd pleaser.  Who doesn’t love Chocolate Covered Pretzels? I mean, really?  They also wrap/travel really well, so load them into a holiday tin with some wax paper, or a fun jar with a snap top!

ay Chocolate Covered Pretzels

So shake up your Cookie Swap this year – be the mysterious swapper that brings Chocolate Pretzels instead of Chocolate Chip Cookies or Peanut Butter Kisses – make them wonder – and drool at the same time 🙂


Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Cookies

So I just got all the Saltine Toffee Brittle out of my system, so onto the next sweet treat!

Everyone has that one thing that indicates that the holiday season has begun –  it could be black friday shopping – putting up your twinkle lights – hanging your stockings by the chimney with care or ornaments on your newly cut christmas tree.

For me, it’s when that one thing I’ve waited for all year dawns the shelves at Trader Joe’s – their Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe’s.  And all of a sudden, I’m a kid again on christmas morning who just opened their brand new Nintendo Power Pad! (orrr um….iPad…right…iPad!)

There’s those special treats reserved for the holiday season that never taste quite as good at any other time of year as they do those few weeks leading up to Christmas.  And Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe’s are no different – Trader Joe makes them specially (just for me) for the Christmas season, and that alone is what makes them taste soooo good.  That and the fact that it’s a combination of 2 of my favorite things on earth – chocolate and cookies.

But, another good thing about them is that they’re easy as pie to make! I mean no offense TJ, but I could whip these bad boys up in no time.  And that my friends, is exactly what I’m gonna do.

Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Cookies
*Inspired by Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe’s

INGREDIENTS
*yields about 2 -1/2 dozen

30 (or so) Double Stuff Oreo Cookies or Trader Joe’s Joe Joes (their version of the Oreo)

1 lb. dark chocolate
(I used the Trader Joe’s 1lb Dark Chocolate Bar)

1 tsp. mint extract

6 or 7 large candy canes, crushed

pepporeoswithinstruction

1) Line a wire rack with wax paper and lay out your Oreo cookies.

2) In a double boiler (or in the microwave), temper your chocolate.  To temper, take about 2/3 of the chocolate and place it in the double boiler (or microwave-safe dish).

3) When the chocolate starts to really melt, remove it from the heat and add the remaining unmelted chocolate to the pan, stirring constantly until it melts into the melted stuff.  The tempering will provide a nice shiny looking chocolate and avoid those unsightly little white spots that can sometimes pop up on chocolate.  When the chocolate is just about all melted, you can mix in the mint extract.

4) Place your candy canes in a ziplock bag and with a hammer or the butt of a large knife, crush them into tiny pieces/crumbs and set aside.

5) With a pair of metal tongs, give each cookie a ‘bath’ in the mint chocolate (best.bath.ever), covering it completely with chocolate.  Let the excess chocolate drip a bit, and then place them back on the wax paper.  When all have been ‘bathed’, sprinkle the tops with peppermint crumbles.

Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Cookies

For the cost of 1 package of TJ’s version, you could make almost THREE TIMES as many of these yourself in the comfort of your own kitchen!

And then, after you eat about a dozen yourself, making sure they’re just right, wrap them up and give them away – but, make sure you wipe the ‘evidence’ off your chin 🙂


Saltine Toffee Brittle

Saltines get a bad wrap – they’re square with little holes in them, hard to swallow if you eat too many at once, kind of an ugly color, and for some reason I always associate them with having a stomach ache (that and flat ginger ale).  For a while I thought all you could do to spice them up was slap peanut butter on them – until one fateful December when I discovered that they are the base for one of the easiest and most delicious sweet treats I’ve ever had in my life.

It was Sophomore year of college, right before Christmas break when Ash’s mom invited us gals out to the ‘burbs’ from Providence to have dinner with her family – a delicious pork dish with all the fixings was on the menu, a welcome change to the slop du jor we were used to at school.  And then after dinner she put dessert on the table – I saw chocolate – YES.  But then what in the…saltines? Are those saltine crackers under that chocolate? I was skeptical, but went in head first thinking “How bad can they be?”.

Saltine Toffee Brittle

Since then, this ‘brittle’ as Ash’s mom called it has been a staple for every occasion imaginable – at bachelorette parties, we hover over the ziplock bag of it after a night out thinking “who needs pizza when you have brittle!”  During the holidays, it’s perfect for wrapping up on a plate with pretty cellophane and ribbon and giving to co-workers, family members, or neighbors.  And the best part is that it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to make – 5 basic ingredients – you can top it with pretty much anything imaginable, or just leave it plain and simple.

Saltine Toffee Brittle

INGREDIENTS

Saltine crackers
(about 2 sleeves)

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup light brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 bag semi-sweet (or milk) chocolate chips

*chopped pecans, M&M’s, holiday sprinkles, etc. etc. for topping are optional

Saltine Toffee Brittle

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet (preferably with sides) with aluminum foil.  Spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray and line the tray with the saltine crackers.

3) In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and vanilla together.  Let them come to a rolling boil for about 3 minutes.

4) Pour butter/sugar/vanilla mixture over the saltine crackers and place in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, until the sugar/butter mixture starts to bubble.

5) Pour the chocolate chips over the saltines.  Throw back in the oven for another minute, just to melt the chocolate chips a little more so they become more spreadable.  Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate to cover the saltines entirely.

6) Place in the fridge to let cool and then break into pieces once completely cooled.

When I say this stuff is addicting, that is a total understatement.  I couldn’t even wait for the stuff to cool last night and boom, 1 row of brittle, in my belly.

It can be served at room temperature, but it tastes really good cold/frozen as well.  It freezes fantastically too, so break it up, toss it in the freezer, have a piece (or 2 or 3) every night for dessert, or you can save it for that holiday party you’re hosting.  While no ones looking, take it out of the freezer, arrange it on a pretty Christmas plate, and say “Ohhh I just whipped this up! Enjoy!”.

Even puppies want in on it 🙂

Saltine Toffee Brittle


Leftover Stuffing Bites

Back to the office this morning, sporting my stretchiest and most forgiving pants with the taste of turkey still on the brain – I hope everyone had a great, great, great Thanksgiving weekend 🙂

The last four days were full of:

Turkey…Leftover Stuffing Balls

Dessert…

Leftover Stuffing Balls

“Mikey (or my cousin Jack) likes it!”

Some kitchen mishaps…

Leftover Stuffing Balls

After attempting to make/blog my Grandmother’s amazing pecan rolls, I accidentally left the dough out overnight and THIS is what it looked like in the morning – I won’t confirm or deny if a few T-day eve cocktails were to blame…nope…

And now Christmas is in full effect at the Schoon house!

Leftover Stuffing BallsBut still, I was itching to make good use of our leftovers, especially the stuffing.  I don’t know about all of you, but for me Thanksgiving isn’t about the turkey or the pies – it’s about the stuffing. I.love.stuffing.  I could eat it for days (and did). And I feel as though it never tastes as good at any other time of year than it does on Thanksgiving.  This year, I made the standard and also a Cornbread Bacon stuffing from Martha Stewart that was so delicious! We had so much of it leftover, I did all kinds of googling to see what I could do with it.  But I wasn’t finding anything that I thought sounded good.  Then for some reason, meatballs popped into my head, not really sure why.  But I thought “Why not take the stuffing as the ‘meat’ you’d use in a meatball, and prepare a ‘stuffing’ ball in a similar fashion?”.  So I pulled up the recipe for Paula’s Crockpot Meatballs,  made a few adjustments, gave it a shot, and most times when I go at things in this fashion, there’s always something that goes awry, but not this time!

Leftover Stuffing Bites

INGREDIENTS
*yields 10 larger size balls or 20 smaller ‘bite size’ ones

1.5-2 cups leftover stuffing
(If you don’t already have stuffing, Pepperidge Farm has a really nice stuffing mix that is super fast and easy to make that would work well with these too!)

1 egg

1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

FOR DIPPING SAUCE

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tbsp. honey mustard

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Combine egg, breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and garlic powder in a small mixing bowl to form a paste.

3) Add the leftover stuffing to the paste, mixing with a spatula (or just your hands) until it becomes a dough like consistency.

4) Take 2 tbsp of the stuffing dough (for larger sized balls – 1 tbsp. for bite sized) and roll between the palms of your hands to form a ball.  Place stuffing balls on a baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray.

5) Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes – flip over and then cooking for another 10 minutes on the other side (20 minutes total).

6) Mix honey mustard and mayo together in a small mixing bowl and serve with stuffing balls as a dipping sauce.

I asked Dave to try one, and he said “It tastes like stuffing” (deep thoughts).  Which it did – but it has a nice moist texture, similar to that of a meatball, with the same great flavor that everyone loves about stuffing. It’s a great way to re-purpose your leftovers, or if you don’t have the stuffing leftover, you could whip up a quick Pepperidge Farm batch and serve these as an appetizer at your holiday parties.  And people will say “Hey, these taste like stuffing! YUM!”  – GENIUS!  Feel free to adjust the spices/seasoning if you wish – I wanted to go light on that aspect of it, only because the stuffing itself already has so much flavor that you don’t need to add a whole lot to it.

Well folks, that’s my last T-day recipe for ya – next will be ALL Christmas – ALL the time – get excited – I know I am!

*Many apologies for the less than appetizing picture – I was preoccupied with skipping through the house putting up Christmas Decorations when I realized I needed to snap a pic of these yummies before it got dark at 4pm – damn you natural light! They taste MUCH better than they look in the pic, swear!


Carrot Souffle

I’m sure you’re thinking “Carrot Souffle? What in the world?”

I know – I know – but bear with me here…

A few years back, Dave and I attended a holiday dinner party at his former bosses house, and his wife did a bang up job with dinner!  I remember sitting down to the table with bug eyes at how amazingly delicious everything looked – except for this one orangey looking thing, covered with nuts.  I started to sweat, because it’s really in poor taste to not try everything at a dinner party, so I scooped a little teeny smidgen of it, and went at it with my fork in one hand and my glass of wine in the other, just in case I needed an emergency wash down.

Carrot Souffle

I took my first teeny little bite, small enough that I could taste what I was eating but not so much so that if I was about to gag it would be totally obvious – and thought “oooh, mmmm….this is pretty good actually.”  My next bite was bigger, and after only a couple bites my small little scoop was gone – but I wanted more! So I took seconds….thought about thirds but didn’t want to embarrass Dave in front of his co-workers by stuffing my face.  I knew I had to have the recipe and finally, she emailed the recipe to Dave and he forwarded it to me, and since then, it’s become a staple at Thanksgiving and Christmas, like the mashed potatoes or green bean casserole.  It’s a light and fluffy combination of pureed carrots and lots of other ingredients that are better not to know – but luckily for you, I’m gonna share them, right now!

Carrot Souffle
*Dave’s former bosses fabulous cook of a wife! (guess I should have gotten her name, eh?)

INGREDIENTS
*yields enough for a 9×13″ baking pan for a larger crowd – halving it would be just enough for an 8×8″ dish

4 lbs carrot, cooked and pureed

12 eggs
(I know – seems like a lot!)

1 & 1/3 cups sugar

8 tbsp flour

4 tsp baking powder

4 tsp vanilla

few dashes of cinnamon & nutmeg

For the topping

1 cup cornflake crumbs

4 tbsp. brown sugar

2 & 1/2 tbsp. butter, melted

1 cup chopped pecans

1)Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your baking dish by greasing the bottom and sides with butter or non-stick cooking spray.

2) Cook the carrots in boiling water until fully cooked through.  Puree them with an electric mixer or food processor and allow to cool completely.  In the mean time while they’re cooling, you can prepare the topping by pulsing the corn flakes in a food processor (or just crushing with your hands in a ziplock), then adding them to the brown sugar, melted butter and pecans.

3) Once the carrots are completely cooled off (the eggs will cook when you add them to the carrots if they haven’t cooled enough), add all of the other ingredients and blend with a mixer until fully combined.

4) Pour carrot mixture into the dish and then top with cornflake/pecan topping.  Feel free to make more of the topping if you’d like – it is quite delicious!

5) Bake souffle in preheated oven for 1 hour.

This Carrot Souffle is a sweet treat for your tastebuds to take bites of in between the turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and green bean casserole and….

Is it Thursday yet?



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