Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!

There’s nothing as comforting as a plate of homemade cookie concoctions baked fresh out of the oven! With a glass of milk or coffee a cookie is a special treat, especially around Christmas. Recently I’ve spent much busy time in my kitchen baking different cookies for fundraisers, co-workers and family. It has been a peaceful and fun week as I listened to my Spotify Christmas playlist and baked my heart away.

 

Chocolate Thumbprints

I found this Chocolate Thumbprint recipe on Pinterest, from Shanon at The Curvy Carrot. She is a physician and enjoys cooking and baking while at home. I’m sharing her recipe for this delicious and beautiful cookie. I doubled the recipe and it made about four dozen. It will be a steadfast addition to my annual cookie list. They are also pretty easy to make and that means a lot this time of year!

 

I used parchment paper and love the results!

 

 

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Servings: about 20 cookies

Ingredients

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup chocolate or multicolored sprinkles

20 (or however many cookies you end up with….) milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.

3. Add sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.

4. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.

5. Beat in the flour.

6. Your dough should be at ball-rolling consistency at this point. If it’s not, let it chill in the refrigerator for a while to firm up a little.

7. Once easily handled, roll dough into 1-inch balls.

8. Roll balls in sprinkles to coat.

9. Place balls 2 inches apart on your lined cookie sheets, and, using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each cookie.

10. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into each cookie’s center. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

 

 

 

 

Next I made Melt in your Mouth  Pumpkin Cookies with frosting to top them off. I love pumpkin cookies and believe they are not just for fall but would be great to add to a Christmas cookie tray. I got this recipe on Pinterest, from Crissy at Dearcrissy.com. She’s a mom and wife, writer and food photographer. This recipe is the best pumpkin cookie I’ve ever tasted and baked! It will be a hit at parties, work or just at home.

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies Recipe
YIELD: 60 COOKIES PREP TIME: 30 MINUTES COOK TIME: 10 MINUTES PER BATCH

Ingredients:

2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
4 cups all-purpose flour
Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar (add until desired consistency/firmness)
ground cinnamon sprinkled on top (optional)

 

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat the 2 cups of butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder,baking soda,salt,the 1 teaspoon cinnamon,and the nutmeg. Beat until combined. Beat in the eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in as much of the four as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour with a wooden spoon.
Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
For frosting, in a small saucepan heat the 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cookies. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.

 

 

Every year I write my cookie list to bake for family, friends, co-workers and neighbors this year. It varies from year to year. Most years I make peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies nicknamed Black eyed Susans, a family favorite. My son Branden and I still make sugar cookie cut outs every year. Since he was about 7 or 8, he has had a keen interest in creating and decorating these beauties. I asked him a message recently if he wanted to continue the tradition when he gets home for college break. He said yes, he would love it and so I look forward to this time with him in the kitchen.

 

Today my sister Barb, niece Ella Kate and my sweet mom are coming for Cookie day, a tradition we started a few years ago. Each of us will bake a batch of our favorites and then we split them up between us. We play music, laugh, reminisce and just enjoy each other while baking cookies. It’s a special day for me and I hope the tradition lasts with my future grandchildren.

Are you baking Christmas cookies soon? What are your favorites?

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

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Succulent Squash

The other day I searched high and low for decorative gourds to adorn my Thanksgiving table. The supermarket must have had a rush for them because there wasn’t any left. Walking around the corner where they should have been, suddenly I discovered some unique squashes that could stand in for the gourds and serve my purpose.

 

 

Aren’t they beautiful in colors and shape?

 

 

I chose a golden acorn, an orange squash I’ve never seen before, a bright yellow acorn, and a slender squash and that resembled a gourd. With a little research I discovered that the slender tan squash is called a  Delicata squash. The multi colored acorn shaped squash is a Carnival squash. The orange round one resembles a pumpkin and is called a Golden Acorn. I threw in my home-grown Buttercup squash from our garden to add a little dark color and complete my display.

 

We had eleven diners so we had two long tables. On each table I scattered the colorful squashes amid my pilgrim people and turkey leaf display. My one regret is that I didn’t have time to snap a photo because I was deep into a cooking mode but they did look beautiful! Interspersed with the plates were my niece’s lovely thankful turkeys and artwork.

 

 

Now I have all these squashes and it’s fun to search for different uses. I plan to make all of them within the next couple weeks. In years past I’ve baked squash wedges with a little brown sugar and butter or boiled it. Winter squash is tasty either way and a healthy side dish to any meal! Tonight I baked the golden squash with butter and salt and pepper. It was yummy and accompanied my spiral pasta with local sausage. ( See my side note)

 

A Little Side Note:

Recently my husband and I started buying meat from a local farm in our town. I saw the post on our town blog  from a local farm. They are selling a holiday package of a variety of meats all from their farm and processed in a FDA facility. We were excited to invest locally with GMO free and grass-fed meat and will continue buying from this farm. It feels good to abandon grocery shopping for meat that has traveled many miles from who knows where. Not knowing where your food comes from is pretty scary…especially in this day and age of additives and the Genetically Modified Organisms nightmare.

 

I hope you all enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday and spent it with people you love! I did…it was a special day of feasting, love and family.

Here is a photo of the dinner crew after eating and indulging in these desserts, pumpkin pie, apple pie, apple crisp, Reese’s peanut butter pie, cherry pie and  chocolate cream pie. Wow, there were lots of desserts and leftovers!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

Thanksgiving Preparation

This will be my third year hosting Thanksgiving at our home. It’s been a learning process and it still continues as I work on planning the cooking. Somehow it all comes together in the end like a perfect wrapped package, despite anxiety over the details. While I have planned on  how things will go, my go to for organization is to make many lists. I jotted down a simple menu and as the big day approaches it’s been tweaked a bit. It changed as I discovered which relatives will bring what dishes. Next I wrote a grocery list. This year I had two, one for a week ago and one for fresh veggies for today. I picked up chicken broth, pickles, olives and the turkey last week and today shopped for fresh veggies and last-minute additions.

 

 

I brushed up on recipes, talked to my mother-in-law about her tasty sausage stuffing and my sister-in-law Bev on her fabulous gravy. I will make these dishes the best I can in the next few days and every year it should get easier and become a science.

I’ve already made my son’s cookies since he prefers them to pie and tomorrow I’ll make deviled eggs and start roasting veggies for the gravy. I’ve planned what I’ll make on which day and the big pie baking day will be Wednesday. Wahoo!

Here’s some advice for your Thanksgiving planning that have helped me. I always love to read my blogging friends holiday tips!

* Go early to the grocery store to avoid crowds. The next few days will be hectic

* Write a list of dishes you wish to prepare and a separate list of items needed for them

* Communicate with family and friends to see what they are bringing

* Ask your spouse and family members to help peel veggies, vacuum the house or other tasks you may need done while you cook and bake

* Light the candles, wear your favorite apron and play Christmas tunes as you cook. It will lighten the mood and relax you.

 

My son Dylan laughing with our company, my brother-in-law Chris

Laugh with your loved ones. Doesn’t Dylan look happy?

* Most Important, have fun and thank your blessings as you plan and prepare the feast! 

Last year’s gravy, apple crisp, cherry pie and pumpkin pie

 

As I wrap this post up I wish you all a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! Indulge in good food, company and remember to acknowledge what you are grateful for! I’m beyond thankful for my loving family, they are my anchor and life is so sweet with them! I’m thankful that my son Dylan proposed to his girlfriend Alexis this month and will marry her in August! I’m so thrilled to be gaining a sweet daughter in law! I’m also grateful for my friends, my little job at school and the children there.

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💗

 

 

 

Lunch Lady Brownies

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Oh so chocolately, oh my!

 

 

 

When I mention lunch ladies, what comes to your mind? Long ago memories fleeting by of hairnets and flowery aprons? Sometimes kind and sweet ladies but many times grumpy stressed ladies stood before you to serve what you thought was food but you weren’t really sure  of it’s contents. I remember one lunch lady from elementary school, Mary Allbee. She always smiled at me and made me feel warm inside. I sure appreciated that during a hectic day of school and peer pressure, even in fifth and sixth grades.

 

 

 

When I remnisce about Mary, I think of the plain white bread she served with smooth and sweet peanut butter topping. It just was bread but the peanut butter sure tasted much better than ours at home. What was her secret? To this day I don’t know but it was delicous and that ‘s one of the few elementary lunch memories I have, besides the soggy limp carrot sticks my mom lovingly packed in my brown paper sack.

 

 

 

This Lunch Lady brownies recipe was shared on Facebook a few weeks back in the depth of summer. At first I thought, hmmm, I never remember great brownies baked by the lunch ladies, but maybe there were at other schools. The recipe intrigued me and I read the ingredients with a restrained awe. Then I tried them, baked them for my family and frosted them with the yummy chocolate buttercream frosting. I think the frosting made them even more delicous but I refrain from thinking that they would be good bake sale items. The frosting may be too messy to sell but great at home. The brownies are just as delicious without the frosting as well!

 

 

I share this recipe with you in hopes that you have good lunch lady memories and if you don’t, perhaps these delicious brownies can soothe your wounds. I stumbled upon this delicious recipe on Life-in-the-Lofthouse.com. Holly Lofthouse is the owner, wife and mother and has a great collection of recipes. Check it out!

 

Lunch Lady Brownies

 

1  cup butter, melted

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

4 teaspoons vanilla

 

Chocolate Frosting, if desired
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup milk ( I used Lactose free but you could use 1 or 2%)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 cups powdered sugar

 

 

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.

Combine  melted butter and cocoa powder. I mix them together with a hand mixer.

Add the flour and sugar. Beat together then add eggs and vanilla. Mix just until combined. Don’t over mix. (Batter will be thick)

 

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Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread out evenly.

 

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Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove brownies from oven and let stand 15 minutes before frosting. You want the brownies still warm when you frost them!

 

Chocolate Frosting:

Beat together all the frosting ingredients until smooth. Pour and spread over warm brownies. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.

Enjoy this little dose of chocolate…for we all know that women have to have their chocolate!
All My Best,
Heart and Soul

 

Delicious Apple Carrot Zucchini Muffins

 

Pour a second cup of coffee with these yummy muffins!

 

Every year I bake zucchini muffins for my family. They are easy to put together and my family loves them. Just yesterday I was browsing zucchini recipes on Pinterest and found a new muffin recipe that sounded good, so I had to try it.

This Apple carrot and zucchini muffin recipe is borrowed from the blog at wineandglue.com. Lisa is a mom “ with a glue gun in one hand and a glass of wine in the other”. That’s my kind of mom, honest with a sense of humor! Check out her blog.

Apple Carrot Zucchini Muffins
Yield: About 18 muffins

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup oil
3 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp.baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup shredded zucchini (about half a medium zucchini)
1 cup shredded carrot (about two carrots)
1 cup shredded apple (about one apple)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or spray with Pam.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, eggs, and oil.

3. In another large bowl whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.

4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the sugar and egg mixture. The batter will be very thick.

5. Mix in the zucchini, apple, and carrot.

6. Fill the muffin tins 2/3 full.

7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

Enjoy! My family ate these for a snack or breakfast. Either way they are moist and delicious!

 

I want to share with you all how I store muffins, cupcakes, cookies and other baked goods. About six years ago I saw these snap it plastic storage containers on QVC. They were selling a set of two and I don’t remember what I paid for them but they are handy and convenient to own. I have a handy deep one with a traveling handle and a shallow one without the handle. I’ve also seen similar containers at T.J. Maxx.

They keep baked goods fresh for me. I also store veggies like lettuce and beet greens in the refrigerator in them. Look them up if you need great storage containers for your kitchen.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

An Ice Cream Cake

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Look out, Carvel! I’ve found an ice cream cake recipe and with my family’s approval, I’m deserting ( haha, what a pun) the expensive store bought cakes and making my own! I’ve made similar recipes before by simply placing layers of ice cream in an Oreo crust with whipped cream on top. This time is just a bit different because of the added toppings.

 

 

 

This time I chose my recipe from Dashingdish.com where the author provided a low fat version. I doctored it a bit to include regular cookie dough ice cream ( one of my husband’s favorites) and original Cool Whip. I figure if we are going to have dessert then it doesn’t need to be a low fat version. If I wanted that, I’d throw together a fruit salad. No, we’re going all the way with this one! I’m not generally a fan of whipped topping so instead I make real whipped cream.  This time I tried it and it came out great!

 

I- premade Oreo pie crust

½ gallon ice cream of your choice, softened

1- 8 oz. Cool Whip topping, thawed

Fudge sundae sauce or topping

8-10 Oreo cookies crushed, with rolling pin

Chopped candy ( I used Reese’s Cups)

 

 

 

Set out ice cream and whipped topping at room temperature. It took about 15 minutes for the ice cream and 30 minutes or so for the Cool Whip. Then combine the two, stirring until mixed together. 

 

Take Oreo crust from pie pan and crumble in a 10” springform pan tightly closed. Press down and flatten so it’s  even. I know what you’re thinking…what a shortcut! If you wish, simply buy Oreo cookies and crush to flatten in pan. 

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Put 1\2 of soft ice cream in pan spreading around so it’s even.

 

 

Sprinkle crushed Oreos over the ice cream layer.

 

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Get rid of that housewife aggression and crush some Oreos today! Haha

 

 

Top the cake with swirls of fudge topping, chopped up candy or chocolate chips and nuts if desired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The finished product and oh, boy was it yummy!

 

 

 

When I served this cake, I left it out on the counter for about 8 minutes just so that it was easy to cut through and it worked pretty well. This cake was for my husband Tom’s birthday, he turned 57 over a week ago. It was super easy and delicious for any occasion. 

 

 

I hope you are all having a great start to your week! I’ll probably have another post or two this week so be on the look out!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

 

 

 

 

Rhubarb Custard Bars

rhubarbstalksPurdue
Shared from thelocalbeet.com

 

 

Recently I read a post from Plainsimplelivingblog.wordpress.com The author’s post was focused on rhubarb and how many rhubarb recipes are riddled with sugar. It brought me back in time…years ago when the boys were little and Tom took Dylan and his dad to Maine for a special fishing trip. I made rhubarb custard bars to welcome them home. I remember vaguely that the recipe had sugar but wasn’t overly sweet.

 

 

 

 

It was early spring, in May and the rhubarb patch was thriving and ready to pick. I picked the smaller stalks, as they were deep red and I knew were rich in flavor. I stumbled upon a recipe online and decided to surprise Tom with a yummy dessert.

 

 

 

Here is the recipe I made so long ago and I believe that within a day or two, they were long gone but not forgotten. What I love about this recipe is the subtle orange juice sweetener. It does have quite a bit sugar but you could experiment with it to find a balance that would work.

 

 



Rhubarb Custard Bars
shared from twosisterstherecipes.blogspot.com

 


Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees
lightly oil a 9×13 pan
For crust:
in stand mixer, or by hand:
2 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cold butter cut into pieces
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt

mix together until the texture of frozen peas. press firmly into pan and set aside.

for filling:
6 eggs
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup flour
whisk all above ingredients together well… then stir in 3 cups of fresh rhubarb- chopped
pour over crust. bake 45 minutes to 1 hour until center is firm. Cool completely before cutting.

 

Hopefully your growing rhubarb hasn’t gone to seed so that you can try this! If you try baking these, let me know if you enjoyed them or if you cut the sugar and your results.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤