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.

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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!!

 

Christmas, New Years, and the start of 2013

I realized today that it was the middle of the month and I haven’t really mentioned much of what I’ve been doing besides working out. While I love a good workout, it is not the only thing going on in my life. Please excuse if this becomes a bit lengthy.
Christmas: My family lives out of state, and while I’d love to spend the time with them, driving 6 hours can be a little dangerous during the holidays. Especially since most of the trek is through Indiana, which is pretty flat, so any kind of snow just blows and covers up the highways, even if it’s just been plowed. Another thing is the weather changes fast! I have literally just watched as the temperatures have drop mile by mile. There was one time I drove through an ice storm into a blizzard, not my ideal travel weather. So in order to calm everybody’s nerves I visit on Thanksgiving and then when the north begins to thaw. Normally someone will adopt me for the holidays, and I volunteer a lot at church so I’m not alone on Christmas. This year was super special, I hosted at my place. It was so fun, my friend’s mom was in town and we made homemade enchiladas, Mexican rice, and beans. It was some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had! I will make sure to put the recipes up here.
New Years! What a fun night it was! A friend opens up his place of business and all our friends get together and have a great time. There are several awesome reasons I love this the most, it is either friends or friends of friends so there isn’t the worry that one might have if you were to go out to a club on New Years. The entry fee, have you ever tried to go out on New Years? It is expensive! We did pay, but it was a relatively small amount and half of it went to this company that does random acts of kindness throughout my city. How cool is that?

20130116-103842.jpg With the New Year come resolutions… I’m not normally one of those people who makes them, because why do I have to wait to the New Year to start changing my life? However, my dear friend came up with this in her own life and I really liked it, because I’m not always on time to things. Here it is, whenever you are late, to anything in your life, you have to do 1 push up per 1 minute late. Let me just tell you now it can get SUPER awkward, or hilarious depending on if you are doing the pushups or watching. Once I’ve said I will do something though, I have to follow through on it. I’m either going to be the most punctual person after this year, or have killer arms either way it’s a win!
On to 2013, woo hoo! A new year, I believe that it is true that time flies when you get older. It often times seems like the year is over before I know it! That is why I think it’s so important to try and do everything I can to make a difference with the time that I have. Do I get sidetracked and sometimes need to stop and refocus my priorities, often, but the key for me at least is to not let these bumps in the road stop the journey that I’m on. To realize that every day is a new day with new chances to help others, and that every day brings new mercies and a chance to do better than yesterday. This is what my focus of the year will be, to do a little better than I did the day before. One of the things I’m working on is having a journal/planner/scrapbook. A working project and is attended to on a weekly basis, to put it into words while the memories are fresh in my mind so that I can look back later and be able to have a clearer picture of what my year looked like. Some fun things that I got to be part of this year was an awesome pizza making event with friends

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20130116-104002.jpg got to watch basketball game with a bunch of wonderful friends. I’m finally starting to get into watching basketball, it’s huge in my town.

20130116-104059.jpg that’s a pretty dark picture but I didn’t want to blind everyone with a flash. One thing in January that I’m really excited about is the Girls Club Fitness and Dance Class. What a great idea, we get some of the girls from the neighborhood to come together and hang out, dance, devotional time, and learn about healthy lifestyles. This will be going on all January long. This past Monday was the first class, and it was a huge hit!

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Hope the start of 2013 has treated you well so far.

12 Days of Cookies! Day 5: Candy Cane Cookies

Two years ago while I was volunteering in my city I baked cookies for the families that we visited, this was one of the cookies I had made. I got this recipe from a book my mom has had for longer than I’m sure she’d care to admit, but the classics are tried and true! Since then I always make these during the holiday season. If you don’t know that there is peppermint in them it comes as a surprise at the end of eating the cookie, especially since they just look like a sugar cookie. This is a little different so not everybody may love them, but I like them and they are fun to make and are very festive looking!

Candy Cane Cookies

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Ingredients:
Cookie:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter softened
½ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp peppermint extract
¼ tsp salt
1 large egg
3 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
Red food coloring

Sprinkles:
2 tbsp crushed peppermint candies
2 tbsp sugar

Directions:
1. Beat together; sugar, butter, milk, vanilla, peppermint and egg in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. Divide dough in half, in one half stir in the red food coloring and refrigerate both halves for about 4 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For each candy cane shape use on rounded tsp of dough from each half of the dough and roll into 4 inch ropes. Place one red and one while rope side by side, press together slightly and twist. Place on ungreased cookie sheet; curve the top of the cookie down to form the handle of the cane. I did some like that, but others I didn’t curve the top and just make candy cane sticks.
3. Bake 7-9 minutes. While baking mix the crushed candies and sugar together, I put the sugar and broke a candy cane or two into pieces and mixed them in a small blender. Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack; sprinkle sugar mixture on top of the cookies. For easy clean up I placed a paper towel under the rack so any extra sugar/candy cane could easily be cleaned up.

12 days of cookies!
Day 1: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Day 2: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Day 3: Lemon Sugar Cookies
Day 4: Birthday Cookies
Day 6: Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
Day 7: Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Day 8: Creamsicle Cookies
Day 9: Classic Spritz Cookies
Day 10: Peppermint Chocolate Chip
Day 11: Gingerbread Cookies
Day 12: Peppermint Kiss Cookies

12 Days of Cookies! Day 3: Lemon Sugar Cookies

These cookies were the first cookie with citrus that I had ever made. I have mentioned before that my love of lemons is something new for me. I have made these numerous times over the last 6 months, but baking with citrus was a bit nerve racking for me at first. I had to really start with the basics the first time I made these, truly I didn’t even know how to zest a lemon! It had been by pure chance that I had picked out a lemon zester a couple of weeks prior to the first batch. Thankfully there is the internet to look things up when you are unsure of how to do something, I got onto YouTube and found this video in case you are wondering as well. The recipe calls for both baking soda and baking powder, the first time I made this I only had baking soda and it turned out fine. The second time I did what the original recipe calls for (1 tsp baking soda and ½ tsp baking powder) but the cookies came out super flat. Now I just make them with only baking soda, I may have done something wrong, not sure about that…

Recipe by Two Peas & Their Pod

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Lemon Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
2 ¾ cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups sugar
zest of 2 lemons
½ cup sugar, to roll the cookies in

20121130-143939.jpg Here is the lemon zest!!

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. In a small bowl mix lemon zest, lemon juice, egg and vanilla extract. In a medium bowl mix all other ingredients except the ½ cup of sugar for rolling. Mix until combined and slowly add the lemon mixture.
3. Roll rounded tbsp of dough in the sugar and place on cookie sheet

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4. Bake 8-10 minutes (mine are normally cooked 6-8 minutes).

The Rest of the cookie days:
Day 1: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Day 2: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Day 4: Birthday Cookies
Day 5: Candy Cane Cookies
Day 6: Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
Day 7: Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Day 8: Creamsicle Cookies
Day 9: Classic Spritz Cookies
Day 10: Peppermint Chocolate Chip
Day 11: Gingerbread Cookies
Day 12: Peppermint Kiss Cookies

12 Days of Cookies! Day 2: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

My friend Sarah is an amazing baker! She truly works wonders in the kitchen. The first time I had these cookies I had inhaled 3 without blinking. These cookies are just wonderful and I was very grateful that she shared the recipe with me. Be forewarned, this is a very sticky dough!!!!

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Ingredients:
4 tbsp butter, room temperature
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 large banana, mashed
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl whisk together: flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside
2. In a large mixing bowl combine sugars and butter, mix until smooth. Add in vanilla extract and egg. Next add banana and mix well.
3. Slowly add the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the oats and chocolate chips.

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20121108-101744.jpg 4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, until golden brown. (I make small cookies so I bake for about 8-10 minutes).

P.S. Today is a friend’s birthday, and she asked me a month in advance to bake these for her today. Happy Birthday Abigail!!!

The other 11 days:
Day 1: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Day 3: Lemon Sugar Cookies
Day 4: Birthday Cookies
Day 5: Candy Cane Cookies
Day 6: Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
Day 7: Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Day 8: Creamsicle Cookies
Day 9: Classic Spritz Cookies
Day 10: Peppermint Chocolate Chip
Day 11: Gingerbread Cookies
Day 12: Peppermint Kiss Cookies

12 Days of Cookies! Day 1: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

It’s December, and around my house that means the holiday baking is just beginning. Baked goods are always great when giving out holiday gifts, in honor of that I will post a cookie recipe each day for the next 12 days. Most of my Christmas presents this year are homemade gifts. This recipe was given to me by a friend, and to be honest I am not sure where she got this from. If you know please comment and I can add a link. It is quite possibly the simplest recipe I have ever made, yet it yields amazing cookies. I never knew peanut butter cookies we’re so easy to make; you will never want to buy a store bought mix again. Not only are they easy to make, but an added bonus is that they are gluten free as well.

Flour less Peanut Butter Cookies

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Ingredients:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

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Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl, when thoroughly mixed roll the dough into small balls, about a tablespoon amount of dough. Place the peanut butter balls on a ungreased baking sheet. Pres down with a fork to make the hash tag looking marks on the top of the cookies. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

**Please remember to give the cookies some room on the cookie sheet, see below for how much they spread while cooking**

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The rest of the days:
Day 2: Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Day 3: Lemon Sugar Cookies
Day 4: Birthday Cookies
Day 5: Candy Cane Cookies
Day 6: Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
Day 7: Chocolate Sugar Cookies
Day 8: Creamsicle Cookies
Day 9: Classic Spritz Cookies
Day 10: Peppermint Chocolate Chip
Day 11: Gingerbread Cookies
Day 12: Peppermint Kiss Cookies