Bake the Halls – Sugar Cookie Swirls

These cookies are perfect for bringing to a Christmas party. This time of year reminds me of one of my first Christmas’s here in Kentucky, I was invited to a Christmas party at the house of one of the ladies (whom I’m now really good friends with) that works at the church I attend.

At the time the girls in my lifegroup (who are now in middle school!) were in the 3-5th grade area, and all the leaders were gathering at Wende’s house to hang out. This was before I had a iPhone and the internet, so I got the directions and didn’t write them down because, you know, I would be just fine. By the time I get  into her subdivision I no longer remember the name of the street she lives on nor the address, but no worries, I turned onto her street and went to the only house with an open door and the lights on. Now at this time I didn’t know Wende too well and only knew a handful of leaders, that night was the night to meet some new friends!! As I walk in the front door I greet the couple around my age inside with a Merry Christmas and they respond in kind.  They motion for me to sit on the couch, while I do, inside my head I’m wondering if I had ever seen them around church and notice that they must be great friends with Wende to be moving around her house in such a familiar manner.  I see them in the kitchen, and to be honest at this time I’m feeling a little bit awkward so of course I ask

“Can I help you guys with anything?”
“Oh we’re good, no worries”

But I was worried, what happened to Wende? And why was I the only one there? I was a little early since I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get there but I was just getting this weird vibe from the two people in the kitchen.

“Um, so where’s Wende?”
“What?”
“This isn’t Wende’s house?”
“No, we don’t know who you are, but just figured you were a friend of a friend”
“Oh my gosh! I’m at the wrong house!!! Ummmm Merry Christmas guys!”

And then I awkwardly leave a random strangers house. Thankfully they were nice and they wished me luck in finding the house and a Merry Christmas. With a burning face of embarrassment I hid in my car and call to find out directions, I wasn’t even on the right street! She lived a street over…

Now, back to the cookies this was the first time I did these and let me tell you there are a couple of things that I’ll do differently the next time I make them. When I originally saw these cookies here, they look beautiful! So of course I figured it would be a cinch to make them and like the story above didn’t read any directions in making them. They were messy but fun to make and the next time I make them I will try the recipe on the link above.

Sugar Cookie Swirls

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Ingredients:

2 packets of Betty Crocker Sugar cookie Mix
2 sticks of butter
2 eggs
Food coloring
Sprinkles

Directions:

1. Make the Betty Crocker Sugar cookie mixes separately,  using the food coloring on one of the batches. Let refrigerate for 30 minutes. (The refrigerating for 30 minutes is what I will do differently next time. It can be done without letting the dough get cold, I just think that by refrigerating it the dough will be easier to roll out.

2. Roll the dough out on a floured surface, then place one dough on top of the other and roll both of the doughs together to get the swirl pattern.

3.  This is what I think is the hardest part… Adding the sprinkles, once the doughs are rolled together the next thing to do is to add the sprinkles, and you know what? Sometimes those little stinkers don’t want to stick on to the outside of the cookie dough! Once the dough has been sufficiently sprinkled I wrapped my now sprinkle cover cookie tube in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for an hour or so.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring the cookie tube out of the fridge and get a sharp knife and cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices into the tube. Place in the oven for 7-10 minutes until the sides are just turning brown. Please note that the cookies will expand! Quite a bit, so give them their room, once cooked let cool for 1 minute and then transfer onto a wire rack to continue to cool.

Bakes the Halls – Gluten free style!

I’m lucky enough to be part of a community of really great Christians, and have a close knit group of girls that I get together with on a weekly basis. We intentionally push one another on our walks with Christ. Th first time I had this treat we were celebrating 2 of the girls birthdays, both of them are gluten free. I was really skeptical of this brownie, but my expectations were blown away and I was surprised to say the I wanted the recipe! I’ve had other brownies that were gluten free and what I think makes this one stand out from those is the frosting that goes on top of the brownie.

Gluten Free Skillet Brownie

Original recipe found here

This tastes amazing!

This tastes amazing!

Ingredients:

Brownie:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp Nutella

Frosting:
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 tbsp Nutella
1/4 cup milk
2 cups powdered sugar
Directions:

1. Pre heat oven to 325 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla and the eggs.

2. Stir in the dry ingredients; the gluten free all purpose flour (if you aren’t gluten free by all means regular flour can be used), cocoa, salt and baking soda.

3. Once those are all mixed, fold in the chocolate chips and pour batter into a cast iron skillet. Once in the skillet, add the Nutella and swirl with a knife.

4. Bake for 35-40 minutes

5. To make the frosting, I would wait until there was just a couple of minutes left before the brownie was finished, or even start right after you take the brownie out of the oven. The frosting doesn’t take long at all to make. The original recipe used a microwave, since I don’t have one I used the stove. Melt the butter and chocolate chips over low to medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning.

6. Just as the chocolate chips were half way melted I added the milk (the chocolate was starting to stick to the bottom of the pan) and the Nutella.

7. Once the chocolate, milk and Nutella are melted and creamy remove the mixture from heat, and slowly start adding the powdered sugar. Once all the powdered sugar is added pour the frosting over the brownie, cut and serve! Make sure not to touch the skillet, its HOT!

More baking goodness!

Bake the Halls – Gingerbread

Bake the Halls – Sugar cookie frosting

12 Days of Cookies

Bake the Halls – Gingerbread

I made this recipe last year, and honestly I had to make it again! I had never really eaten or enjoyed gingerbread cookies. These however are soft and chewy and all over yummy, and since they were that good last year, why not make it again. If it’s not broken why fix it, right! Another thing that hadn’t changed from making these last year was the smell of molasses, if you have never encounter this before get ready. Personally I don’t care for the smell of it, if you go wonderful, but it does something magical when it’s in the oven to come out smelling and tasting nothing like the raw molasses. One thing I got this year was these rolling pin thickness gages. Fantastic I picked them up when I was wondering around in the craziness of holiday shopping, and they made it immensely easier to make cookies. I no longer had to worry if all the cookies would be different widths or if some would burn while others wouldn’t be cooked at all. If you do a lot of baking and haven’t picked these up, I would recommend picking some up.

Ingredients:
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp cloves
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 large egg

Directions:

1. Whisk flour, salt, baking soda and spices. in a separate bowl cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the molasses and egg until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out onto a floured surface, this is super important otherwise the cookies will stick and be all sorts of crazy when you try and put them on the cookie sheet. I used the thickest of the rolling pin rings, I believe it was 3/8 of an inch.

3. This year I made gingerbread men, stars and Christmas trees. Since these were pretty thick cookies and they puff up while in the oven I made sure to really give them their space on the cookie sheets. I baked them for 6-7 minutes.

Gingerbread!!

Gingerbread!!

 

Bake the Halls 2013

A little late on my Thanksgiving update but needless to say it was a ton of fun seeing my family for an extended weekend. Plus I got to meet the daughter of one of my best friends!! It was epic! One of the things that I actually tend to enjoy a lot is the drive, I know who likes a 6 hour drive? Well I do, not really the drive, but the forced time to reflect. I find that sometimes I get so caught up in life that I am just going, going, going, and without anytime to reflect back on it it’s hard to really enjoy my life. Let alone have the time to be thankful for all of the blessings in my life, for example as I write this tomorrow will be my last final for my first semester back at school in a long time. Woohoo!!

But on to the baking! Another blessing is my entire family bakes together and it is one of my fondest memories from childhood. I can still see the counter tops full of cookies, some cooling and some already packaged up and ready to be given out (with the ominous “DO NOT EAT” signs taped on them). It’s something I do to this day actually, ask anyone I am friends, volunteer, or work with, I love to bake and then give out all of the goodies! Last year I did a series call ’12 days of cookies’ and I’ll make a link available near the end of this post.

Thanksgiving was the kick off for baking, annnd I got my sister to post for some pictures for the blog! She says she doesn’t want to be on the blog, but deep down I think we all know she wants too ;). For the cookies, we used the dough from Betty Crocker sugar cookies, and made homemade frosting!

Frosting

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-3 tbsp milk

Directions:

1. Make sure the butter is softened, and not melted. Add the vanilla and slowly add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time.

2. After the sugar is all added to make it easier to put into pipping bags and decorate the cookies add some milk. (Trust me, I tried to not add the milk thinking it would be fine, wrong, it didn’t work!)

3. Decorate the cookies and eat!!

*We split the frosting and dyed it different colors, as well as had some chocolate frosting that was left over from the chocolate cake we made for breakfast

Click here to go to the page that has a list (with links) to the “12 Days of Cookies” recipes.

Enjoy the pictures:

The set up

The set up

Val's apparence! And the cutting of the cookies
Val’s apparence! And the cutting of the cookies

Chocolate flavored tree trunks!

Chocolate flavored tree trunks!

I decorated the stockings and the snowflakes! Val did the trees and the snowmen

I decorated the stockings and the snowflakes! Val did the trees and the snowmen

November is tomorrow, what?

This year has flown by faster than I could have ever imagined! There’s so much to tell, the Ramirez family went on an EPIC trip to Disney World earlier this month (pictures and blog posts soon to follow), I found and fell in love with new recipes, while others I know what not to do now…. but more on to come. Have you ever hear of Locks of Love? I had hear of it before and while on vacation my sister she had mentioned that she was growing her hair out and donating awesome right?! Then as soon as I get back my friend Devra (who also blogs at The Pomeroy Life) invited me to go with her so she could surprise her hubby by chopping her hair and donating it to to Locks of Love! Coincidence, or is it? Of course I wanted to go!! It was awesome! She had

Before, during, and after the chop!

Before, during, and after the chop!

mention she had been thinking about doing this for a long time. I told her I wanted to do a post about it so of course got her approval to write about it! When I asked her about it “Everyone always says I have pretty hair so if I needed to get a good chunk trimmed off why not go ahead and get a little extra chopped off to bless someone else with it?!” What a blessing it is! Devra chopped off a full 10 inches and it looks great!! Well tomorrow begins the final 2 months of 2013, can you believe it? Only about one month left on my first semester back at college, and I’m very thankful to have my weekends back once again!! Next semester I’m only taking one weekend class, two was crazy! That should open up some more time, which in turn will honestly be used to study. Until next time

 

Before and After!

Before and After!

Doesn’t it look awesome!!

Chicken Alfredo Bake

Well it may come as a surprise to some, but this recipe did not, I repeat, did NOT come from Pinterest. At least that’s not how I got ahold of this recipe. My coworker mentioned that her roommate made this and absolutely loved it, so I texted her and asked for the recipe. The original recipe came from The Plaid & Paisley Kitchen, what a cute sounding kitchen. Anyways, as I was looking to upload and edit the pictures I took on my ‘big’ camera I noticed that the pictures didn’t come out! Super sad, I’m going to have to go and get it fixed, so I must apologize for the state of the picture before hand, this was just one I snapped mid meal with my iPhone.

Chicken Alfredo Bake  The actual dish is to the top right hand corner. If you were wondering what wine I had it was Millanova’s Brandon’s Blend. Millanova is a local Kentucky winery and to be honest it’s my favorite winery, I’ve tried several different wines from them and none has been a disappointment.

Alright now on the the actual recipe:

 

Chicken Alfredo Bake

Ingredients:

1 rotisserie chicken, pull and shred the chicken
3/4 box of your favorite pasta shape
1 jar alfredo sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese
salt, pepper and garlic, to taste
 

Directions:

1. Cook the pasta until al dente. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Shred the chicken and place in a medium size mixing bowl. Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder, add 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, and I like to run it under some cool water. Add the pasta to the bowl with the chicken, now pour the jar of alfredo sauce over everything, and toss to coat. When everything is coated place in an 8×8 cooking dish, sprayed with some Pam. Add the second cup of mozzarella cheese on top.
4. Last but not least place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Take out and ENJOY!!
 

*You can substitute 3 chicken breasts in place of the rotisserie chicken if desired. Make sure to cook the chicken prior to placing in the bowl to mix with the other ingredients.

 

I have the internet!!

Hey all!! I know, I’ve been a little MIA lately, hopefully that is over. Something not many of you may know is that I didn’t have internet before, oh I don’t know, about 20 minutes ago. What? How can that be? You may be wondering, especially since I’ve been blogging for over a year! Well to be honest, all this time, I’ve been blogging from my phone. Needless to say I’m super pumped about being able to use an actual keyboard to express my thoughts and yummy treats I prepare. Why if I’ve been going 5 years strong without internet did I finally cave? I’m a college student again! Ah, right?! I thought that it would be great to go back and learn some more stuff. Being the dinosaur that I am, I mistakenly thought that if I went to class I would need a book and to remember to turn in my homework, wrong! My math class has all the assignments and even the book online. So here I am, with the internet, you all have been warned! I’m hoping that I will be able to be more active on my blog now that it is easier to write the posts, although it looks like I’ll have some learning to do with writing posts on an actual computer. Well it is a beautiful day out today and I’ve got the windows open and have to get back to studying for my test this weekend! I should have a treat or dinner recipe up soon!

xoxo

Beef and Bok Choy

First let me tell you two things; one, you need to be 21 to get cooking sherry in my state and two, I was nervous about eating bok choy. The reason I was so nervous stems from an incident a couple of years ago when I tried sushi for the first time. You have no idea how pumped I was to eat sea weed, you don’t even have to tell me how strange that is, trust me, I know. Needless to say when I didn’t like sea weed it kind of ruined the entire sushi experience, and I haven’t been able to eat it again. I like to try foods that I’ve never eaten before so I decided to throw caution to the wind and hope bok choy didn’t disappoint me like the sea weed did. If you are wondering, which I’m sure you are, I loved bok choy. The recipe came from a book I bought years ago when I worked at a book store, it’s called; The complete cookbook: Stir Fry. It is still apparently available on amazon!

Beef with Bok Choy

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Ingredients:
1 bunch of bok choy
oil for cooking
2 gloves garlic, crushed
8 oz rump steak thinly sliced (I found of beef stir fry meat that I used)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sweet sherry
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:
1. Was bok choy and drain. Cut leaves into wide strips and stems into thin strips. Heat wok until very hot, add 1 tbsp oil and swirl to coat. Add garlic, stir fry for 30 seconds
2. Add another tbsp of oil and then in batches the meat. Stir fry 3 minutes over high heat where meat has browned but not cooked through. Remove from wok.
3. Add bok choy to the wok and stir fry for 30 seconds or until just wilted.

20130808-162044.jpg Add the meat, soy sauce and sherry. Stir fry 2-3 minutes until meat is tender.

20130808-162955.jpg Look at all that steam!
4. Add the basil and sesame oil, toss well and serve immediately.

**I served this over rice, and also had it the next day for leftovers and it was very good!

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve kind of been on a cookie kick lately, especially if the cookies come from a cake mix! The last cookie that I made was the strawberry lemonade cookies. It was a pleasant surprise when I was looking at one of my favorite blogs, Sally’s Baking Addiction, and she had a recipe for strawberry chocolate chip cookies! Exactly what the girls’ night that I was going to needed, it was like chocolate covered strawberry, who doesn’t love those? Not only are these delicious summer cookies, but they could also be used for a cute Valentine’s day gift. When I made the other cake batter cookies I noticed the dough was really sticky, and for me personally I don’t care much for that so I added a little flour to this recipe. Needless to say it was a huge hit, and super quick to make. By the time the oven was done preheating the cookies were mixed and ready to go straight into the warm oven, so it might be a great idea to have some chocolate chips and strawberry cake mix always on hand for any last minute get togethers.

Strawberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Ingredients:
1 box of strawberry cake mix
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup chocolate chips

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. In the first bowl mix together all the dry ingredients; cake mix, flour, and baking powder and set aside. In a separate bowl, all the remaining ingredients minus the chocolate chips, whisk together the wet and dry ingredients. Make sure to break up any clumps that might happen, I notice this tends to happen with prepackaged mixes.
3. After the ingredients are well mixed, fold in the chocolate chips. I sometimes prefer smaller cookies, so about 1 to 1 ½ tbsps. worth of dough is rolled into balls and dropped onto a cookie sheet.
4. If you make cookies that are smaller than the original recipe calls for bake for 6-8 minutes. Or 8-10 minutes for larger cookies.

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Some other easy cookie recipes to try
Flourless peanut butter cookies (gluten free!)
Strawberry Lemonade cookies
Lemon Sugar cookies

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

I feel as if strawberry lemonade is one of the staples of summer life. Not gonna lie here guys, I still love Kool-Aid Strawberry Lemonade, it’s just so good! When I saw a recipe for strawberry lemonade cookies, how could I resist? If you are wondering where I found this recipe, it was Pinterest, and then was directed to this delightful site. Let me just tell you, I made these for this past Saturday to give to my friend Kate who is moving. I posted some pictures on Twitter, and needless to say people were asking for them so I’ll be making them again for this weekends’ game night!

Strawberry Lemonade Cookies

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Ingredients:
1 package of lemon cake mix
1 package of strawberry cake mix
4 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil, per each batter
2 tsp pure lemon extract
2/3 cup confectioners’’ sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2. Pour lemon cake mix in a large bowl and the strawberry cake mix into another bowl. Stir in 2 eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil and 1 tsp lemon extract into each of the separate flavored cake batters and mix until well blended.
3. Take 2 rounded teaspoons of lemon batter and roll into a ball. Do the same with the strawberry batter. Combine the lemon and strawberry dough’s to make one large ball.
4. Drop the dough into a bowl of confectioners’ sugar. Roll them around until they are lightly covered. Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.
5. Bake for 10 minutes (honestly I only baked mine for 6 minutes…) in the preheated oven, until bottoms are light brown and the insides are chewy. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. These are also great the next day too.

Do you have a favorite summertime cookie, you’d love to share? Post a link in the comments section if you do. Also I’m looking for some yummy Christmas cookie recipes, I know I know, it’s still July! Well I’m going to try and do the 12 days of cookies again this year, and I might as well plan what cookies I want to make now so I don’t get overwhelmed with the holidays and completely forget!

Love lemons? I sure do, here’s some other recipes with lemon:
Lemon Sugar Cookies
Zucchini in Parchment
Hummus