Wednesday, December 29, 2010


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This bitty girl has, in the past, not been fond of her baby-dolls.  She would really rather play with whatever her brother has, or better yet, whatever her brother is just thinking of playing with--so she can go for it first.  I found her playing in her room yesterday afternoon with this little doll that my mom gave her.  She was rocking the baby and reading a book to her.  It was such an out of the ordinary moment, and I quickly grabbed my camera to capture the sweetness.

:)  Back to baking soon!
Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas is Over?!

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.  It went by so was over in a flash.  All that planning, shopping and wrapping, and it's all OVER now!

The kids were really excited on Christmas Eve.  We sprinkled our reindeer food on the front lawn and then hurried inside to get ready for bed.  The kids put out a plate of cookies for Santa.  (It looks a little skimpy, now that I'm looking at the photo!  I'll remember to do better next year.)  We snuggled up on the couch and read "The Night Before Christmas".

Santa brought lots of fun things--like Pillow Pets!

...and a Star Wars aircraft!

We had a very long, but HAPPY day spending time with family.  (Some of us handled the exhaustion better than others.)

I received a couple new cookbooks from my parents and in-laws that I am so, so excited about!  I'll be posting new baking recipes soon.  Best wishes for a very happy NEW YEAR!
Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cranberry Bliss Bars

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Have you ever had a Cranberry Bliss Bar from Starbucks?  They usually have them around the holidays.  They are...pretty good.  This homemade version is AMAZING though!  You need one...or two!  The recipe is from one of my favorite baking blogs My Baking Addiction.  Imagine a lightly spiced batter, with bits of white chocolate and dried cranberries throughout, topped with a tangy, sweet cream cheese frosting.  Another bonus--you get to use some of that Pumpkin Pie Spice that you bought around Thanksgiving.  Don't let it languish in your pantry, use it in these bars.  :)  Try them today!

Cranberry Bliss Bars

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar—packed
Zest of one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup minced dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips or chopped good quality white chocolate

For Frosting:
8 ounce cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest of one orange

For the Garnish:
dried cranberries
chopped pistachios

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; about 3 minutes. Add eggs, orange zest and vanilla; beating until well combined. Sift together the dry ingredients and then add to the butter/sugar mixture beating well. Fold in the cranberries and white chocolate. Spread thick batter in pan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes.
3. When cake is cooled, mix all frosting ingredients together and spread over the cake. Garnish with dried cranberries and pistachios.

Source:  My Baking Addiction
Monday, December 20, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Mini-Cupcakes

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These little cupcakes are so very cute!  I love all the contrasting colors--dark cocoa, snowy white frosting and sparkly red candy cane pieces.  They are bite size and look great on a holiday table.  I reduced the peppermint extract from the original recipe, because too much of that stuff gives me the shivers.  A little goes a long way!  I think these little minis turned out great.

I made the mini-cupcakes and some Cranberry Bliss Bars (posting those soon!) for my mom's Christmas party this past weekend.  Here they are, ready to go!

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes
(makes 48 mini-cupcakes)

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 cups flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream

1 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
4-6 cups powdered sugar

Garnish:  crushed candy canes

1)  Preheat oven to 350.  Line 2 (24 cup) mini muffin pans with foil or paper liners.
2)  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed with a mixer until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in peppermint extract.
3)  In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined after each addition.  Stir in sour cream.  Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.  Let cool in pans for 10 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
4)  For the frosting:  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and peppermint extract at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth and mixture reaches a spreading consistency.  Spread or pipe frosting evenly over cupcakes.  Garnish with crushed candy canes.

Source:  adapted from Paula Deen
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Favorite Chocolate Cupcakes

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Many of you know that I LOVE to make cupcakes.  I do, it's true!  This cupcake recipe is my tried and true favorite, and my kids are crazy for them.  My son is always so excited when he comes home from school to find these little sweeties ready to snack on.

My daughter can (almost) whip them up herself.  Really!  (I did say almost...)

This recipe is fantastically easy.  There is no softening of butter, there is no melting of chocolate, just a little whisking.  So simple.  And the frosting...oh my!  It is a very simple ganache that you dip the cupcake tops in.  The cupcakes are easily transported, and taste even better the next day. just keeps getting better.  :)  Make them today, I'm going to!

Here is the recipe.  It makes 12 cupcakes and it is very easy to double if you need more.

Brandy's Chocolate Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp instant espresso powder*
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the ganache frosting:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/8 tsp instant espresso powder*

(*You can leave the espresso powder out and the cupcakes will turn out just great.  I like it because it brings out the yum factor of the chocolate a bit.) 

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line a cupcake/muffin pan with paper liners (12).  In a small bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, espresso powder and salt.  Stir with a whisk or fork to combine.  (This takes the place of sifting in my kitchen.  Judge me not!)

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, egg and vanilla until smooth.  Alternately whisk in flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; whisk until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.

3.  Scoop batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 20-23 minutes or until tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.  Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack.

4.  For the ganache frosting:  Place chocolate chips and espresso powder in a small, heat proof bowl.  Microwave or heat cream in a small sauce pan until it is almost boiling--you just want small bubbles popping up on the edge of the pan.  (In plainer terms--don't boil the cream, just get it really hot!)  Pour the cream over the chocolate chips; let it sit for a minute and then whisk until smooth.  Let the cupcakes and ganache mixture cool for about 5-10 minutes.  Frosting is easy--Take a cupcake, turn it upside down and dip it in the ganache.  Coat the top of the cupcake, and then turn it upright, place it back on the cooling rack and admire it.

Source:  adapted from Julie Hasson/125 Best Cupcake Recipes
Monday, December 13, 2010

Cheese-Jalapeno Jelly Thumbprints

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Do you have pepper jelly?  I do.  Lots of it.  My mom has made several batches from the bounty of the pepper plants in her garden.  It's SO good.  Aside from spooning the jelly over a block of cream cheese and devouring it with crackers (like any good Southerner should), I'm sometimes at a loss for what to do with pepper jelly.  It's not the kind of stuff you spread on toast or a peanut butter sandwich.

I found a recipe.  A recipe to utilize this spicy-sweet goodness.  Cheese-Jalapeno Jelly Thumbprints!

I made them this past weekend, and they turned out really good.  I made the dough the day before (do I say that too much?), and rolled them in pecans and baked them off the next day.  So easy!

Here is the recipe.

Cheese-Jalapeno Jelly Thumbprints

1 (8 oz.) block sharp white Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pecans, finely ground
1/3 cup jalapeno pepper jelly

Process first 4 ingredients in a food processor until blended.  Add flour, ground red pepper, and salt; process until dough forms a ball, stopping often to scrape down sides.  Shape dough into a flat disc; cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Let dough stand at room temperature 5 minutes.  Shape dough into 1" balls, roll in ground pecans.

Place balls 1" apart on baking sheets (ungreased and/or lined with parchment paper).  Press thumb in center of each ball to make an indentation.

Bake at 400 for 14 minutes or until lightly browned.  Immediately fill each center with a heaping 1/4 tsp jelly, pressing gently into cookie with back of spoon.  Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.  Makes about 3 dozen.  Enjoy!

Source:  Southern Living
Sunday, December 12, 2010

White Chocolate Cookies & Cream Fudge

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Yum!  Oreo Cookies + additional sugar = give me some!  The kids and I enjoyed some time together in the kitchen this weekend.  This fudge is so easy and super fun to make with kids.

Here's what you need:

Don't forget Larry and Moe:

You'll need to crush those Oreo Cookies.  This is a task best suited for a boy...they have a powerful need to crush things anyway, at least this will be productive.

Stirring is fun too!

Here's the recipe.  Happy Holidays & Enjoy!

White Chocolate Cookies & Cream Fudge

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 (5oz.) can evaporated milk
2 (12 oz.) packages white chocolate chips
1 (7 0z.) jar marshmallow cream
3 cups coarsely crushed Oreo cookies, divided (about 25 cookies)
pinch of salt

Line a greased 9" x 13" pan with foil, set aside.  Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; cook 3 minutes & continue to stir constantly.  Remove from heat; add white chocolate chips, marshmallow cream, and salt; stir together until smooth.  Fold in 2 cups crushed cookies. 

Pour fudge into prepared pan.  Sprinkle remaining 1 cup cookies over fudge, gently pressing cookies into fudge.  Cover and chill until firm (about 2 hours).

Lift uncut fudge from pan, remove foil, and cut fudge into 1" squares.  Enjoy!
Saturday, December 11, 2010

White Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies

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These little sweets are ready for a cookie exchange tomorrow.  They were very easy to make, and even though I'm not crazy about peppermint, they are really tasty!  You can even make the dough a day ahead (which is what I prefer to do anyway) and they bake up nicely.

One little note of caution though...The recipe calls for finely crushed candy canes.  You might want to make sure you don't have too much peppermint "dust" in with your crushed candy canes, otherwise the cookies will be a lovely shade of pink.  Pink cookies are great, but...maybe another time. suggestion is to sift out some of the peppermint dust after you crush the candy canes.   Just a suggestion!

Look at the melted candy cane!  Love this for some reason!  ??

They make people happy...even sleepy little folks.  Bake some!  Here is the recipe.

White Chocolate Candy Cane Drops

8  ounces  white chocolate baking squares (with cocoa butter)
1/2  cup  butter, softened
1  cup  sugar
1  teaspoon  baking powder
1/2  teaspoon  salt
2    eggs
1  teaspoon  vanilla
2-3/4  cups  all-purpose flour
2/3  cup  finely crushed peppermint candy canes


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Chop 4 ounces of the white chocolate; set aside. In a small saucepan, cook and stir the remaining 4 ounces white chocolate over low heat until melted. Set saucepan aside to cool chocolate slightly.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in melted white chocolate. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Stir in the chopped white chocolate and crushed candy canes.
3. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned around edges. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Makes about 50 cookies.

Source:  adapted from Better Homes & Gardens
Thursday, December 9, 2010

It Doesn't Make Him Less of a Man....

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My little man is all boy-no doubt.  He's a romping, stomping, crashing little male.  There is one thing though that is a departure from his normal boyish-ness...  He really likes this one particular cartoon.  He begs to watch it.


He LOVES to watch My Little Pony.  Shh...don't tell his father.  

Baking Day

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My bitty girl and I did some baking yesterday for the teacher's luncheon at my son's school.  We made Chocolate Peppermint Mini-Cupcakes and Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes (from Brown-Eyed Baker).

We also made OREO Truffles.  Mercy!  They spoke to me...they made me eat them...many, many of them.

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