Kitchen Baking/ Cooking Tips

My kitchen has turned into my sweet little refuge lately. It is huge now with plenty of space to cook or bake. Since I have ample room, I have decorated it with inviting elements that speak to me. As I cook or bake, the winter light seeps into my tall windows. My twinkly lights play their magic as I enjoy the calm space. Glorious heat from the oven makes the kitchen toasty, especially welcoming in chilly January! Being in my kitchen brings me tremendous joy!

In our last house our kitchen was a tight galley space, one that I adapted to, but never really loved. That lack of space, especially counter space, made any cooking or baking task a huge challenge. Now I have a 26 x 14 sized room, enough room to host a family cooking and talking. I have plenty of counter space as well as a bar top, where sometimes I cool baked goods on.

If you feel like your kitchen space isn’t welcoming or peaceful you may want to change that. There are simple things you can do to create a kitchen that you love. I’m working on another post focusing on kitchen ambience so be on the lookout.

Lately I’ve noticed some quick and easy baking and cooking tips that I’ve started using and have aided me as I work.

Try covering top of mixer with a dish towel, when adding puffy flour, otherwise flour will sift all over counter.

Store all your Kitchen Aid attachments in the bowl where they are easy to access. I have my bowl lined with a dish cloth as well.

Place spoon rest next to work area and have paper towels handy.

Cool cookies on racks. I have one with legs and one flat one, a double decker.

The m & m cookies I made for work and the school kids

Place in airtight plastic containers instead of cookie jars. That keeps them fresh. Instead stash packaged candy in the jar or your cookie cutter collection.

Place a fresh piece of bread with cookies to maintain moisture and soften cookies. This works great for me!

Place brown sugar in air tight container. It’s so annoying to try to soften it while you are immersed in a recipe!

Have soapy dishwater ready for cooking and baking dishes, pots and pans.

For a busy family holiday meal, call upon the guys to help with heavy pots and lifting. Tom and my brother-in-law Chris were a great help to Bev and I at Thanksgiving. They helped lift the big pot of gravy.

The guys helping with the gravy and soon after we had a sink of dishes.

I found that having the oven on to help dough rise helps. Place on top of stove with damp kitchen cloth.

Plan your baking times, if needed, bake on different days so items don’t rest too long waiting for the oven. On Christmas Eve my cinnamon rolls rose too big ( they still came out delicious but they rose out of the baking pan) while I was baking the chocolate cake. It would have been handy to have two oven chambers!

I am curious what valuable kitchen tips you practice often. Please share with me, for I’m always looking for cheats to make cooking and baking easier.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 😀

Advertisements

Spreading Kindness in the New Year ❤️

‘‘Tis the season to spread a blanket of kindness everywhere you roam! 

Here are some ideas I thought of to spread kindness! 

Pay the road toll for the person behind you.

A little bit of summer, my way of spreading kindness to you!

Let someone with less groceries to skip in front of you in the check out line. ( I do this all the time, it’s a great feeling!)

Put little chocolates in someone’s mailbox at work.

If you work at school, take a co- worker’s duty on your duty free day.

Make sure to comment someone on their haircut or new sweater if you notice it.

Listen to others and don’t listen to respond. Just really listen! 

Bake for your co- workers and friends.

 Bake for nursing homes and hospitals.

Smile at others, the simplest gesture!

Help a handicapped shopper at the store.


If we all pay attention to spreading kindness, our corner of the world would be more peaceful, don’t you agree?

All My Best,

Mary ❤️

Mom’s Christmas Traditions

My Mom’s Traditions 

E797CE1D-F29E-43A0-B396-8B299D4B2B8F

What is it about getting older that brings nostalgic thoughts and dream reenactments of childhood holidays? I think this happens to most of us as we age…when we truly realize how special family is and the holidays with them surrounding you. There are some Christmas traditions that mean even more to me as seasons come and go.

Every family has the tradition of special foods that are prepared once a year. My mom made spicy gingerbread men every year. Mom poked holes at the top to string ribbon through. We ate some and hung the others on our Christmas tree. Most Christmas mornings my mom made Bisquick Jam coffee cake. 

Tom’s Mom’s Traditions 

41E37278-CAC4-4988-917D-40A5F060C10D

There was always a clementine nestled in the stocking toe with little boxes of cereal that the four children would eat for breakfast. They would open their stockings early around 4, discovering their new treasures. Meanwhile their mom and dad slept. 

The Sears Roebuck catalog was the wish list and each child picked out one gift they wanted and they always got that one special gift. Tom received a bike when he was 8 or 9. One year the girls got ice skates.

Their father plowed snow and one year he was out all day working and they waited for him to come home to open the presents. I’m sure it was even sweeter that year because the children had to wait, but it was worth it to share with their dad.

FE9F4A0F-C060-42B0-925A-D63ABD432297
Tom and his cousin Kenny

My Christmas Traditions

Growing up our family had a tradition of opening one small gift on Christmas Eve. I wanted us to continue the fun and so our boys always had one or two presents to open on Christmas Eve. Usually there was new pajamas and an ornament for the tree. It was fun shopping for unique ones that represented the year. One year I bought a little snowboarder for Dylan when he was snowboarding on our hill. Branden got a cinnamon smelling cat as he loved our cats. 


As I wrap up this post I want to thank you all for staying with me and investing your time to catch a glimpse of my life. Many of you have become my friends and I’m thankful for the connections we have made across the country and the world. Things are getting quite busy here with finishing shopping, cooking and baking and wrapping for Christmas. I will not post again until Christmas or after. I wish you all a Merry Christmas with your loved ones and friends. 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 🎄❤️

My sons in their new pajamas on Christmas Eve

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

On the last snow day from school, I  decided to bake this delicious looking version of pumpkin bars from Together as a family site and will post the link to the recipe. I apologize for not having a picture of these but take my word, THEY ARE DELICIOUS! Check out the original recipe at https://togetherasfamily.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-bars/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes&utm_term=433083832_14813236_267507.

Who doesn’t love pumpkin, especially in late fall? Chocolate is a huge favorite of mine too. A short time ago I  discovered both together in a recipe on Pinterest. The pumpkin has a bold taste and sweet and creamy chocolate compliments it, much like with peanut butter.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

adapted from Together as Family Blog, Jessica is the author.

My version is going to host semi- sweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate chips. I used One- Pie pumpkin filling.

The ingredients
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce ( I used a packaged applesauce cup which was just under a half cup)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree ( I used One- Pie)
2 cups milk chocolate chips ( I used semi- sweet chips and it was delicious)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
In a mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients, flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Beat the butter, applesauce, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. I used my Kitchen- aid mixer on low. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Add pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
Gradually add dry mixture to wet ingredients until combined. Add chocolate chips.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The edges will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and will be golden brown and the center will look “puffy” and done. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out with moist/dry crumbs.
Cool bars before cutting out of pan. Store in closed container. These are simply delicious and so moist! I made them last week for Tom and the girls at school and I think everyone enjoyed them!
Check out Togetherasfamily.com to see the original recipe!

T is for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving thoughts and plans

are underway!

I’m thinking of roasted succulent

turkey and pumpkin pie

which I’ll indulge in on Thursday.

The cherry and pumpkin pies

will be  made in my kitchen.

One of the boys’ favorites,

apple crisp and my daughter in

law’s vegan cheesecake

is also on the dessert menu.

My heart is thankful                                             

while I’m praising God

for all my blessings.

Thank goodness

for my two sons

whom mean so very much to me,

my loving husband Tom 

and his thoughtful act of brewing my coffee every morn!

Thank the good Lord for bringing us

our new daughter in law Alexis

to share her life with Dylan!

As I pen these words,

thoughtless wild turkeys

traipse in mounds of snow

across the way…

little do they know Thanksgiving

is almost here!

This day will be extraordinary

in every way.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours. Wherever you may be or whatever you celebrate I wish you peace and love this day and every day! 

Love,

Mary 🦃❤️

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cream Pies ( Cookies)

I must say so myself, these are delicious! Merely the cookie without the filling would be great too!

 

 

Recently I was thumbing through my Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine. It’s been in my recipe collection for 17 years. It’s worn and torn in places, showing its age and constant use. It has been one of my favorite magazines to find cookie recipes all year. I say all year because many of the recipes are good for all through the year and why limit them to December and Christmas?

 

It was a Saturday afternoon and I wanted to whip up these peanut butter oatmeal cream pies ( cookies) for Tom and the girls at school. I try to bake for them all weekly and the weekend off is a great time to do it! I gathered my ingredients, lit my kitchen candles and away I baked!

 

Homemade Peanut Butter Oatmeal Pies

Taken from Better Homes and Garden Christmas Cookies publication

1/4 c. flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. quick cooking oats

Filling

2 tsps. hot water

1/4 tsp salt

1- 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream ( Fluff)

1/2 c. shortening

1/3 c. powdered sugar

 

My new mixer that I have used a lot!

 

 

1. Preheat oven to 350  degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. In a large bowl combine butter and peanut butter. Beat on medium until combined. ( I used my Kitchen aid mixer but you could use a hand mixer) Beat in sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until just combined. Stir in flour mixture and oats.

2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes or until edges are light brown and centers are set. Cool for one minute and then transfer to wire cooling rack.

3. In a medium bowl combine hot water and salt. Stir until dissolved. Add marshmallow cream, shortening ( I’m not crazy about shortening and may use butter next time) and powdered sugar. Beat until well combined.

4. Spread filling mixture onto flat side of half of cookies. Top each frosted cookie with another cookie. Makes 13 sandwich cookies.

I store my cookies at room temperature in my plastic cookie keeper that’s air tight. These are so much better than store-bought cream pies…look out Little Debbie’s!

 

 

Enjoy your week and take time to bake for your friends and loved ones!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

 

 

 

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

 

I missed making this treat for Christmas so managed to get it done this weekend.

 

 

 

I remember that many years ago my mom made a cream cheese Bisquick Raspberry coffee cake for Christmas morning. She had a special book in the eighties with the recipe and now my sister has the book. It’s a delicious and easy coffee cake to try for your family.

I don’t usually buy Bisquick but I do especially for this delicious coffee cake!

 

 

 

I’ve made it several Christmases, switching the raspberry jam for strawberry and it still had the same delicious taste! It’s been a few Christmases since I’ve made this , so this weekend I decided to try it again. It’s yummy warm and accompanied with a cup of coffee.

The recipe- Bisquick Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

You will need for the cake:

1 ( 3 oz) pkg. cream cheese

4 Tbsp. butter

2 c. Bisquick mix

1/3 c. milk ( I used Lactose free for Lactose Intolerance)

1/2 c. raspberry jam ( can substitute strawberry)

 

For the Glaze:

1-2 Tbsp. milk

1 c. confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Maraschino cherries

 

Cut cream cheese and butter into Bisquick. Mix until crumbly. Blend in milk. Knead with hands into a smooth ball. Tear off two pieces of waxed paper the size of a cookie sheet. Place the dough on one piece of paper with the second piece on top. Roll out dough to a 12 x 8 rectangle. Remove the top paper and flip the dough on a greased cookie sheet. Spread jam down the center. Make 2 1/2 inch cuts at one inch intervals on each side of the dough. Fold the strips over the jam. Press lightly so that the strips seal together. Seal ends so the jam doesn’t seep out. If you noticed I didn’t seal it up on one end by mistake but it came out okay.

Bake at a preheated 425 degrees F oven for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool. Drizzle coffee cake with the icing. Garnish with cherries or walnuts if desired.

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite coffee cake recipe? Is there a story with it?

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul