Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday Baking 2013 - part one

Now that Christmas is almost here, I have officially started my holiday baking.  So far I have made pecan tassies, almond vanilla bean sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, and peanut butter blossoms.

As I type up the recipes to add to my computer, I’ll share them.  I also need to add them to my family cookbook (a gift from my mother-in-law).  Until then, here are two to tide you over. 

Almond Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

I used this recipe from Betty Crocker as inspiration.  Since I wasn’t sure how the changes would turn out, I made a half batch.  The hubby was very pleased with the result!

½ cup vanilla bean sugar
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup unsalted butter
½ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
Vanilla bean sugar

  • In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, powdered sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in oil, vanilla and eggs until well blended.
  • On low speed, beat in flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt until a dough forms.
  • Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight for easier handling.
  • Heat oven to 375*F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten each with bottom of glass dipped in vanilla bean sugar.
  • Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until set but not brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets.
Almond Vanilla Bean Sugar Cookies

Peanut Butter cookies and Peanut Butter Blossoms

One of the many books I have in my collection is 1001 Cookie Recipes: The Ultimate A-To-Z Collection of Bars, Drops, Crescents, Snaps, Squares, Biscuits, and Everything That Crumbles by Gregg R. Gillespie.   You can tell how much I love one of the peanut butter cookie recipes by the notations - and the spilled ingredients - on that page, both signs of an excellent recipe.

I use the same recipe for both peanut butter cookies and peanut butter blossoms (or, as I like to call them, hugs and kisses cookies). 


2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs

  • Preheat oven to 350*F
  • Combine flour, baking powder and baking soda.
  • In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar, butter, peanut butter and eggs.
  • Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.  The dough will be soft.
Peanut Butter Cookies
For Peanut Butter cookies
  • Drop dough about 3 inches apart onto baking sheet.
  • Using a fork dipped in sugar, crisscross tops of dough.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

For Peanut Butter Blossoms

  • Roll balls of dough into sugar and place about 3 inches apart onto baking sheet.
  • Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
  • After baked add one Hershey kiss (or hug) to the middle of cookie.

  • You can use chunky peanut butter for more crunch.
  • Instead of all white flour, I used 1 part whole wheat to 2 parts white.
  • For a double batch, use an 18 ounce jar of peanut butter.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Smiling is my favorite

Just stopping by to share a few things that have recently brought a smile to my face.

This video.  Sure it might be a marketing ploy.  Regardless, more companies need to do this kind of thing.

This song.  Namely the parts about shopping, other holidays, and seeing Christmas decorations in stores before Halloween.

These two crazy pups.**  Seriously, they might drive me a little nutty sometimes (especially the little one), but they can always make me feel happy. 

Handsome puppyboy, Spike.  He will be 11 soon!

How can you sleep like that, Luna Belle?

From December 2012.
**By the way - they are in a contest.  You can vote for them by clicking here and liking their photo.  Contest ends December 31, 2013.

This little girl.  If only she didn’t live 1400 miles away. *sigh*  I love hearing stories of her antics, seeing how big she is getting through photos, talking to her on Skype, and just everything about her. 
Maddiecakes takes her crafting very seriously!

The hubby.  He’s good at making me smile.  He keeps telling me that he needs to finish Christmas shopping for me…even though I’ve told him many times that the Elton John concert tickets we just bought should be considered my present for this year. 
The hubby's beloved '55 Chevy truck. It's almost as awesome as he is.

One last thing:  I’m going to see Elton John in concert!  That makes me smile a lot.   

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's the holiday season

Front of this year's Christmas cards
Christmas is only a couple weeks away!  How did that happen?  Most of my holiday shopping is finished, other than ordering a few items online and buying some gift cards.  I put up two small trees, wrapped several gifts, and mailed nearly forty homemade Christmas cards.  At work we have switched over to our winter bulletin boards and decorations, though we are still putting up a few items here and there. 

The past few days I have begun to consider what sweets I want to make for Christmas.  Peanut Butter Fudge is a must.  Not only is a favorite of mine, but I know that several of the hubby’s family love it as well.  I might also make a batch of Buckeye Brownies to take to the in-laws’ house.  Those are my current favorite.

"Oh, Christmas trees! Oh, Christmas trees!"
What else to make, though?  I could always stick with the usual suspects: chocolate chip, peanut butter, peanut butter blossoms, and loaded oatmeal.  Maybe make an old favorite that I haven’t made in years, such as pecan tassies or kolache (not the nut roll dealio that the hubby calls kolache).  Or I could try something new.  I could even forgo the cookie route and bake a cake.  So many options…so few people eating them. 

Of course, I could always take the cookies to work and share with my coworkers.  They might grumble about the excess of treats, but that rarely keeps people from enjoying the goodies!
Obviously, my niece Maddie does not heart Santa

What are your favorite holiday sweet treats?   Have a recipe to share?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thanksgiving travels

So…it’s been nearly a month since I list posted.  Oops.  Time flies when you are having fun.  Or when you are busy.  Or something like that.

I spent Thanksgiving in Michigan, visiting my parents.  As of the afternoon of Thanksgiving Eve, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make the trip.  My area of Ohio was hit by the snowstorm that traveled north that week.  We had nearly a foot of heavy, wet snow dumped on us over 36 hours.  Thankfully it had tapered off by the time I was finished work on Wednesday.  Late that night I packed up the car and the pups and I headed west to Michigan.  As I figured from checking the weather, just past Cleveland the ground was clear.  Since I was on the road in the middle of the night, there wasn’t a lot of holiday traffic on the turnpike.  The pups and I arrived at my parents’ house just in time for my parents to get up to see my dad off to work.  In other words, we got there around 5 a.m. 

Spike thought Luna Belle made a good seat.  She didn't agree.
I swear having a second “kid” has added at least 30 minutes to the trip!  Even when we don’t stop for potty breaks!

Mom and I hit up a few stores during the day, mostly for groceries – and in search of a particular brand of gingerbread cookies for dad.  We came back to the house and, after putting a couple of pies in the oven, cleaned.  Around 3 p.m., right before Mom was to put the turkey in the oven, the power went out.  After figuring out that it was the neighborhood – not just their house – we decided to go to the movies.  We had been told that the electricity wouldn’t be back on for a couple of hours – if not longer!  It was getting dark and cold, so there wasn’t much we could do at home other than nap. 

So off to the theater we went.

Both of us wanted to see The Book Thief.  We had both read the book and loved it.  Feeling a little nervous as to how well the film adaptation would be, we settled in and hoped for the best.  What a wonderful movie!  There were a few changes from the book, as to be expected.  Nonetheless, we were both pleased. 

By the time we returned home, the electricity was working once again.  Dad was expected home from work shortly after we got there.  Mom was finally able to put the turkey in the oven, but it was going to be several hours before it finished cooking.  This meant we were not having a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

Luna Belle sniffing her sleeping Grandma.
The turkey cooked.  Dad and I chatted and watched our beloved Steelers play football.  Mom napped on the couch.  Overall, it was a nice evening.

Eventually, after Dad had gone to bed, the turkey was finished.  Just in time for Mom and I to hit up a few stores for Black Friday Shopping!

Now, I am not a fan of Black Friday shopping.  I hate the crowds and the rudeness.  It seems like the deals aren’t worth the hassle, either.  But my mom LOVES it.  She knows that I will go with her – because I know how much it means to her.  We arrived at the stores a few hours into the madness, which may have contributed to the fact we didn’t buy much.  Well, during that part of the shopping day at least.  We arrived back home around 3:30 a.m.  Mom made mashed potatoes and veggies to pack in my dad’s lunch and I finally had my turkey dinner at 4 a.m.  It was delish.

After a few hours of sleep, we both woke up to do some last minute cleaning and preparations.  A cousin of mine and her boyfriend drove up from West Virginia so they could attend the Michigan-Ohio State game (Go Blue!).  Once they arrived, we all headed north to Great Lakes Crossing – a gigantic indoor outlet mall.  Being that it was Black Friday, the place was PACKED.  It was here that I did the majority of my shopping.  After several hours, we left there and headed to another mall closer to my parents’ house.  We shopped some more before heading home for the night.

Our first view of UM's Big House
The next day was game day.  We all got up early and headed to Ann Arbor.  After dropping my cousin and her boyfriend off at The Big House, Mom and I hit up a few different stores in the region.  I “watched” the game via my phone while we shopped.  After the game, we took a scenic route back towards Detroit, stopping at another mall on our way to the house.

Since my cousin’s boyfriend had to work the next day, they left that evening.  Mom and I talked about going to see a movie, but we were both too tired. 

Sunday morning I set an alarm for 5:15 a.m. so I could say good-bye to Dad before he left for work.  I knew I would be heading home before he was done for the day.  Of course, I went back to bed after he left.  I’m not sure he fully understands how special it is that I woke up that early voluntarily!

After packing up the car, Mom and I headed to the casino for lunch and a little of penny slot playing.  I won enough to fill the gas tank and pay the turnpike fee.  Around 5 p.m. the pups and I hit the road and came back to Ohio, where the hubby was waiting for us.  The drive home was quicker than the drive there, even with the abundance of traffic.  We were all happy to be home and sleep in our own bed again.

That was my Thanksgiving weekend.  I can’t believe that Christmas is just a few weeks away.  Most of my shopping is finished.  Christmas cards have been sent (other than a few that I needed addresses to complete). I even did a little decorating!  Next up – holiday baking.  What to make this year? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Happy birthday to me!

My 3rd birthday.  Dad in the background.

Today is my birthday!  I am very happily 36 today. That’s right.  I am HAPPY about my age.  In fact, I count down to my birthday every year.  I hear I get rather annoying.  That’s just part of the fun!

Why am I still so excited about my birthday?  Why shouldn’t I be?  Our culture insists on trying to be younger than our actual age, instead of celebrating the achievement of reaching another birthday.  At least until we reach such milestones as 90 or 100.  Many joke that they are “29 again”.  Personally, I’m glad to be in my 30s.  I’m finding this decade to be a wonderful one! 

What little girl doesn't want a Rainbow Brite birthday cake?
My philosophy on birthdays is rather simple.  It’s a day that is all about you.  If you’ve had a bad year, celebrate that you have survived it!  If it was a great year, rejoice in that.  Overall, it is better than the alternative. 

I’ve always been excited about my birthday.  When I was in kindergarten I planned my own birthday party at McDonald’s.  My parents found out after a classmate’s parent asked about it.  Luckily, they were able to make it happen!    
The year I planned my own birthday party. I was an advanced 4 year old! lol
I’m working today. The hubby is on the road.  My big plans for tonight are to go home to the pups, spend some time with them, and go out to dinner by myself (with a book, of course).  I might stop at Dairy Queen and get an ice cream cake to share with my coworkers – just because I can.