Guiness Cupcakes

I may not be Irish, but you do know that St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. And sometimes you just have to go with the flow and make something creative for a holiday known for certain foods, such as corned beef and cabbage, green beer, Guiness, etc.

Well I do not like green beer. I don’t really like beer, but I have been known to drink it on occasions. Which is another story.

Corned beef and cabbage? I’m not much of a fan. And I know I probably wouldn’t do a very good job at making it, so that’s a bit much, as far as I’m concerned.  Besides, there’s a restaurant we go to every year so my husband can have it, and since they have other items on the menu that I like, I’m fine with that.

But I figured there had to be something out there I could make for the occasion. But it really had to be something I’d enjoy. Since I enjoy baking, I thought I’d see if I could find some Irish cookies or something. But all I found were cut-out cookies of shamrocks which also required their being frosted. Even though the frosting had Irish whiskey in it, I knew they were well past my talents, which doesn’t lend itself well to either frosting cookies OR icing a cake.

Even if I were going to serve them with Irish coffee, which I do like, it really wouldn’t be my best experience. I do know my limitations.

But then I found a recipe that didn’t look too hard, even though it did require using my inadequate frosting skills. But maybe my husband and my best friend could overlook what they looked like, as long as they tasted good. The grandkids don’t need to try these!

So here’s what I’m going to try this weekend. They look fairly easy, and somehow I can probably figure out a way to do the frosting, although I can assure you they won’t look like the picture I found of them. I do have some St. Patricl’s cupcake wrappers, though.

Then again, it’s worth a try. If they aren’t really presentable, I can always blame it on the Irish coffee or the sip or two of Bailey’s I may have while I’m making them!

So here’s the recipe for Chocolate Guiness Cupcakes. Wish me luck!

  • 1 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • i cup Irish stout beer (Guiness preferably) at room termperature
  • 1 tbl vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking pwder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3-4 mini-muffin tins or cups with paper liners. (I think I’d do regular size and just adjust the baking time.) This says it makes 66 mini cupcakes! That’s a lot!

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk til smooth. Stir in beer and vanilla. Reomve from heat and allow to cool.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and sift into a large bowl. Mix in sugar. Add beer mixture and stir til thoroughly combined. Add eggs, stirring until well incorporated. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, each about 3/4 full.

Bake in preheated over until tops spring back when lightly pressed (10-11 mniutes (for mini’s; check while cooking for regular sizes). Cool in muffin pans for 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile make the frosting.:

  • 1 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

To prepare, beat buter and confectioners sugar in a bowl with electric mixer. Add the Baileys,, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, and white, in color, about ten minutes. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting.

The King of Cakes

I’ve been seeing these king cakes all over the internet and Facebook. The colors are so pretty and they really look delicious! 

All that sugar mixed with the colored icing….who can resist? And every time I see a picture of one, I keep thinking “maybe I could do that!”

Yeah. Right. But then again….At least it’s not a cake that has to be decorated perfectly with icing….that’s just not something I do well.

I researched quite a bit to try to find all the history of this sugary concoction, and really didn’t find any in depth history like I’d expected. 

The King cake tradition was started in France and brought to New Orleans in 1870. According to countryliving.com, the cake actually got its start in the Middle Ages, made in Europe to celebrate Epiphany (January 6), which is also known as Three Kings Day, a celebration of the day when the three Wise Men were said to have visited Baby Jesus and given him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What happened in between that time with the cake, I still haven’t found out.

But when the French came to Louisiana in 1870, they brought the tradition of the King Cake with them, and it’s been a part of Mardi Gras ever since, and not limited to New Orleans. It’s seasonal, like the Hot Cross Buns at Easter, and it goes away on Ash Wednesday, since good Catholics are traditionally giving up something at the start of Lent. (But for us non-Catholics, I think we can still eat the leftovers.)

As most of you may know, the cake is usually made from a yeast dough with various fillings, cinnamon, chocolate, or cream cheese. Traditionally, the cake is also baked with a miniature plastic baby inside, which traditionally symbolizes Baby Jesus. When the cake is served, the person who finds the baby in their slice of cake is the one who is supposed to provide the king cake for next year’s festivities.

The cake is colorfully decorated, with icing or glaze and sanded sugars or sprinkles in alternating colors of purple, which signifies “justice; green for “faith”; and gold for “power.” Many times the cakes are decorated with paper crowns and/or the traditional Mardi Gras beads in those same colors.

Now I do like to bake as you all know, and I do enjoy making my mother’s cinnamon buns every holiday, and a few other times during the year, so I’m thinking I can probably make one of these as well.

I guess we’ll just have to see. And here’s the recipe I’m going to try, which comes from Betty Crocker.com. So we’ll just have to see what happens. The directions seem long, but based on what I do with my cinnamon buns, it really shouldn’t be that bad.

New Orleans King Cake

  • 3 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 pkg Rapid Rise yeast
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tbl unsalted butter, softened, cut in 12 pieces
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbl unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbl milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • colored sugars and food coloring
  • 1 miniature plastic baby (from a craft store in the baby shower section)

Mix 2 1/2 c flour and yeast in mixing bowl of your KitchenAid, using paddle attachment on low for about 30 seconds.

Heat 1 cup milk, sugar and salt in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and milk is between 120-130 degrees.

With mixer on low, pour in liquid and mix. Add eggs one at a time Continue mixing until a shaggy dough forms. Clean off paddle and switch to a dough hook (which I’ve never used before but have been wanting to try). Mix in remaining 1 cup flour as needed to make a soft dough. Add softened butter, one piece at a time, kneading until each piece is absorbed.

Knead 8 minutes on low until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. If too sticky, add additional flour, 1 tbl at a time.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times by hand. Form dough into a ball. Place dough into a greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

While dough is chilling, make cinnamon filling. In small bowl combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Combine the 4 tbl butter and mix well.

Roll chilled dough into a 10×20 rectangle. Spread filling on half of long side of dough, Fold dough in half covering the filling and pat down firmly so the dough will stick together; Cut dough into three long strips. Press tops of the strips together and braid. Press ends together at bottom. Genty stretch braid so it measures 20 inches. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise til doubled, about an hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dough on cookie sheet and bake til golden brown, 20-30 minutes. remove from oven and let cool 10 min. Then place on cooling rack to cool completely. To hide baby in the cake, make a small slit in the bottom of the cake and put in after cake has cooled.

While cake is cooling, make icing. Mix powdered sugar, 1 tbl milk and vanilla until smooth. Add more milk if mixture is too thick or powdered sugar if too thin. Separate into 3 small bowls and food coloring to desired tint, Spoon icing over top of cake and immediately sprinkle on colored sugar and/or sprinkles, alternating the colors.

I really do hope it’s as simple as it sounds. Well, simple is probably a relative term, but we’ll see. Maybe.

However…if this seems way too much work, here’s a shortcut version. i may try this first!

Super Easy King Cake

  • 3 14 oz cans refrigerated sweet roll dough
  • 2 12 oz cans creamy vanilla ready to spread froting
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • food coloring and sanding sugar and sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease baking sheet.

Open cans of sweet roll dough. Unroll dough from each can into 3 strands. On clean surface place strands side by side gather together to make one large strand. Fold in half and roll slightly to make a fat log. Repeat steps with remaining dough.

Place each log on baking sheet and shape to make a ring, overlapping the ends and pinching together to make a circle. Pat into shape to make ring even in size all around. cover loosely with foil.

Bake in preheated oven until firm and golden brown, 50-60 minutes. check oftem to be sure ring doesn’t overbake. Place on wire rack and cool completely.

Place on serving plate. Cut slit along inside of ring and insert the tiny plastic baby pushing in far enough to be hidden.

Divide frosting into 4 bowls. Stir 1 tbl milk into each to thin. Use frosting in one bowl to drizzle over cooked cake. stir yellow food coloring in one bowl. green in another. Use red and blue in lat bowl to make purple. drizzle onto cake to make pattern. Dust with sugar and sprinkles.

I think I’m trying this one first. How about you?

An Unconventional Valentine Treat

I’ve been searching for something to make that’s different (and easy) for Valentine’s Day. Yeah, I know we can do brownies from a box mix and add white chocolate and pink M&M’s to the batter, and then maybe put frosting with sprinkles on them after they’re cooled. We can even bake them in a heart shaped pan.

Or the traditional chocolate chip cookie, again possibly with pink M&Ms or white baking chips rather than the traditional chocolate chips, but that’s still a bit too commonplace. Yes, they’re delicious but I kept thinking there had to be something a little more unique. And easy.

I do like to bake, as I think you all know, but that doesn’t really give me much leeway to improvise, since for me, baking has to be sort of precise or I’ll screw the whole thing up.

Now my husband really likes rice krispies treats. You know the ones made with marshmallows and such. But I’m really not a fan. One of his clients actually gives him a couple of the pre-packaged ones each week, because they know how much he likes them. Works for me.

And the other day she surprised him with a bag of heart shaped rice krispies treats that’s she’d dipped in chocolate and added red sprinkles.

Which was good, since I didn’t have to do it!

But still, there had to be something else unconventional I could come up with.

There are always the traditional pretzel sticks drizzled with chocolate or white chocolate tinted pink, but neither of us are really into pretzels.

Then I came across several recipes for Valentine’s Chex mix snacks. Well, I like sweets as much as anyone, but I also like salty as well, so this sounded like a great combination to please everyone.

So why not?? Anyway, I’m sharing the recipe now, and I think I’ll get my husband to make this one with me. With the Super Bowl this weekend, it sounds like a great addition to our junk food snacks that we’re planning, so why not see what happens?

Let me know if you try it as well. It’s always interesting to compare notes!

Valentine Snack Mix

  • 2 cups corn chex cereal
  • 1 cup mini pretzel twists
  • 2 cups rice chex cereal
  • 2 cups Honey Nut Cheerios
  • 1 bag valentine M&M’s
  • 3 cups white baking chips
  • 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
  • Valentine or colored sugar sprinkles.

Prepare large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a very large bowl combine cereals, pretzels, and M&M’s. Stir to combine well.

In medium bowl combine 3 cups baking chips and vegetable oil. Microwave 30 seconds; stir and microwave another 15 seconds. Stir until melted and smooth. If needed, microwave another 15 seconds, stirring for 10 seconds between each time. Pour over snack mix.

Working QUICKLY gently stir until all ingredients are coated and then quickly transfer to prepared baking sheet, spreading into one even layer. Immediately add remaining M&M’s on top and additional sprinkles. Add a bit of additional melted baking bits if desired. Allow chocolate to firm up and harden either on counter or in fridge. Break into pieces and serve.

Please note: I found this recipe online at chelseasmessyapron.com. So it’s not my own creation.

The Flamingos’ Valentine Creations

So you’ve read about the flamingos’ pink chocolate baking party, so now it’s time to post some of the winning recipes. After all, how could we really select just one winner from all the goodies?

And if you haven’t read about the party, which was published on January 27, be sure to read it here before you go any further!

We had a tough time deciding which desserts were the best. All of the flamingos did a great job. In fact we didn’t realize that flamingos were so talented when it comes to baking! (We may have to hire them if we’re ever able to have another one of our flamingo pool parties!)

The pink flamingo cakes were gorgeous and beautifully decorated. It was a lot of work, but we decided we’ll have a cake decorating party one of these months and we won’t have to cut them to taste them and mess them up!

So it was a difficult decision, and required quite a bit of tasting, but….someone had to do it!

Here are the top three winners. We’ll let you decide which one won first prize.

Hint: all the flamingos agreed as to who the winner was!

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Fudge (The flamingos borrowed this from Taste of Home Magazine)

  • 10 oz package white baking chips
  • 1 tsp softened butter
  • 3 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup raspberry liqueur
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Place while baking chips in single layer on small baking sheet; freeze 30 minutes. Line 9″ square pan with foil; grease foil with butter.

In large microwave safe bowl combine dark chocolate chips and milk. Microwave uncovered on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave in additional 30 second intervals, stirring til smooth. Add liqueur and salt. Add white baking chips and stir just til partially melted. Spread into prepared pan and refrigerate one hour til firm.

Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Remove foil and cut fudge into 1″ squares. Decorate with pink sprinkles or pink sanding sugar (very important). Store in airtight container in refrigerator. They won’t last long!

Pink Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, slightly softened
  • 1 pouch sugar cookie mix
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (Noite: you can also use white chips or a combination of the two)
  • Red food color gel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter til smooth, not soft, Using toothpick add food color gel, one dab at a time until it reaches the right shade of pink. Add cookie mis until well blended; add powdered sugar and beat til blended. Note: dough will be crumbly, not smooth. Stir in chocolate pieces by hand.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake 12-14 minutes. Remove from oven when slightly brown around edges but not squishy in the center, Cool 1-2 minutes on cookie sheet and then remove to wire rack for final cooling. Serve on plate decorated with pink hearts.

French Macaroons (borrowed by the flamingos from AllRecipes.com)

  • 3 egg whites
  • 6 tbl superfine (caster) sugar
  • 1 cup finely ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely ground almonds for garnish
  • 1 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • Food coloring

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mat.

Whisk egg whites in a clean metal mixing bowl until thick, about 5 minutes, Whisk the superfine sugar into egg whites until thick, glossy and mixture holds soft peaks, 5-8 more minutes. Place a sieve over the bowl containing egg white mixture. Gently fold the almond meal and confectioners sugar into the egg white mixture, retaining as much air as possible.

Tint dough the desired color of pink and add a drop of flavored extract, if desired. Spoon meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 3/8 inch tip. Pipe 1 inch disks of meringue onto the prepared backing sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies, (This wasn’t easy for the flamingos, but they did it!)

Let the cookies stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to form a thin skin on top. Pick up the baking sheets and let drop fromseveral inches above the work surface to adhere cookies to the baking sheets. Yes, that’s what they did!

Bake in preheated oven til tops are dry, about 15 minutes; let cool completely on baking sheets before peeling off the parchment paper. Stick together with a small amount of raspberry jam, if desired.

More Snowy Day Treats…with a twist

Last weekend we had 6-8” of snow in Virginia Beach. Yes, a bit unusual for our area. But we were sort of prepared for it. We had food, football to look forward to, and yes, we were planning to make cookie snowmen.

Until my husband announced he wanted to try to make something one of his clients had told him about.

Ben likes to cook. He fixes most of our dinners, and does a great job, by the way. But he’s not a dessert making guy. He usually buys them if we have dessert.

So when he told me he wanted to make a cake pop type treat coated in chocolate, made with his favorite Baileys Irish cream, and he was ready to actually help, well, I figured the snowman cookies could wait for another snowstorm. 

So we assembled all the ingredients, including a large bottle of Baileys, and started the process.

Actually when I think about it, this was the first time he and I had ever actually prepared something together. Meals don’t really count because we’re each making a different dish as part of the meal itself. This was a first.

And a scary one as well. After all, many years ago we’d tried working together in a business, and let’s just say that lasted about a year before he hired other people, and I went to work for a real estate company. We both want to be in charge, you see…I’m sure you understand what I’m saying.

And making a dessert together requires teamwork. Could we really do it? Without arguing?

I actually did most of the first part, which involved mixing up a yellow cake mix using package directions. After looking on-line I decided to use only half the oil called for and instead of all the water, half of that as well, along with a 1/4 cup of Baileys. Yes, I was sort of making it up as we went along.

My husband did grease the cake pans for me, and then we baked the layers, and let them cool. 

Then the true challenge began. Because Ben hadn’t gotten all the recipe details from his client, I had to improvise from recipes on line. I never do that with baking. Never.

There’s always a first.

One recipe called for 3 cups of crumbled cake, which I had him do. That wasn’t bad. But we ended up with about a cup more before we stopped crumbling. No big deal. Then it was time to add the Baileys. 

Ben said his client told him she added half a shot per cake pop, which she said were the size of golf balls. I said that was way too much. So we ended up adding almost a cup of it, and of course having to add extra cake crumbles. In between his taste testing the mixture, of course. Which he enjoyed a bit too much, I think.

Since all the recipes I found called for adding a bit of frosting to the mixture to hold it together, we did that as well. The result? A somewhat sticky mess that I made him roll into balls. Which turned out bigger than I thought they should be, but by that time, who cared?

We put them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and stuck them in the fridge to chill for an hour until it was time for the last step. 

There are several ways to melt chocolate for dipping. A lot of times I’ve used the microwave to melt candy melts for my cookies. Well, this time that was a disaster. They wouldn’t melt properly even when closely following the instructions and we ended up throwing the whole icky chunky mess in the trash can.

Fortunately Ben had bought several milk chocolate candy bars for the project, and I still had a double boiler set of pans in the cabinet. My mother had always used that for melting chocolate for fudge and frosting making, and actually it does a much better job. Of course my husband said he’d never seen one, so either he didn’t pay attention, or it’d been ages since I used one. Probably the latter!

Anyway, since the cake truffles were bigger than I’d wanted, they were a bit harder to dip properly, even with a toothpick chilled in the middle. But that was Ben’s job. The first couple of tries weren’t easy, with chocolate dripping a little too much on the wax paper. So he let them drip a few extra seconds into the double boiler top before putting them on the wax paper, where I quickly removed the toothpick and shook colored sprinkles on top. Actually, they turned out rather pretty.

But taste testing the final product had to wait until we chilled them again to make sure the chocolate hardened.

And surprisingly they weren’t bad. The texture was more truffle-like rather than cake-like because of the overpouring of the Baileys, but for a first try…fairly successful! We even shared some with friends! And they really enjoyed them as well!

And he’s already talking about how he’ll do them the NEXT TIME! 

I think we’re in trouble here….

Do you have a favorite cake pop recipe? Can you share it? I think we’re going to need it

But here’s how we did ours. I think.

  • 1 box yellow cake mix with 3 eggs and vegetable oil
  • A bottle Bailey’s Irish Cream (use to taste).
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
  • Chocolate bars (no nuts!)

Mix cake mix according to package directions, except use only half the oil and about half the water. We added some Baileys with the half mixture of water. Bake as directed on the box and let cool.

Crumble the cooled layers. We had about 3-4 cups of crumbs at least. Then pour in the Baileys to taste. However, don’t get the mixture too wet, unless you want to add more cake crumbs. Cream the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy and combine with the crumb mix to hold it together. I think we used more than we should, but that’s up to you.

Roll the mixture into balls. I suggest not making them as big as we did, but then again that’s your choice. Golf ball size is a bit too big, I think. Place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, stick a toothpick in the top of each one to make dipping easier, and chill for at least an hour so they’ll be easier to handle.

When you’re ready to finish your project, melt the chocolate bars in the top of the double boiler, stirring to make sure they’re melted well. Set up your assembly line like we did and dip each ball individually in the chocolate. Let the excess drip off and put on another cookie sheet lined with wax paper, remove the toothpick and shake the sprinkles on the wet chocolate. When you’re finished, put them back in the refrigerator to chill. Store them covered in a plastic container when you’re all done.

I have no idea how long they will last. I know we still have a few in there from last weekend but I don’t expect them to be there by the end of Sunday’s football games.

As I said earlier, how about sharing your recipes with some pictures? We can all learn about this together.

Snowy Day Treats

Here in Virginia Beach we never know what snow predictions will or won’t come true. One day we hear it’s going to snow but not stick. The next it’s going to snow and then turn to rain. Then it’s maybe going to snow and have up to 6”. Or more. Or not any.

Who knows? Certainly not the meteorologists. Weather forecasting is not always an exact science. At least in our area. We didn’t know what would happen until we woke up in the morning and looked out the window. And…surprise! We got about 6″ of snow; at least that’s what my husband measured. Heavy, wet snow, Perfect for making snowmen.

I have a good friend who loves snow. Whenever the forecast mentions that particular four letter word she pulls out her “let it snow” pin and does her snow dance. She’s even posted it on her Facebook page once in a while.

Does it help? Well, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s all in fun. This time it certainly worked, and she went out walking in it at 5 am this morning! And I will admit I wore my snowflake sweater and snowflake earrings yesterday, so maybe the combination of both of us….

Snowstorms were all around us last weekend. But no snow for us. Now as I was writing this it was forecast again for this weekend. And this time in our area. Between 2-7”, or up to 10″. I really didn’t expect to see a lot of it this morning, but it really is pretty. Since it’s Saturday most of us don’t have to go anywhere so that’s good.

Now for the snowman situation. I can certainly make a snowman or two. At least I plan on trying. And I thought I’d share two of the recipes I’m considering. Because they look like fun. And a little bit of a creative challenge. I’ going to let the grandchildren and their parents make the snow ones, and they’ll send us pictures. While we stay warm and dry inside.

And we can send them the pictures of these!

Melted Snowman Sugar Cookies from Betty Crockertm

  • 1 pouch Betty Crockertm sugar cookie mix
  • Butter and egg as called for on package
  • 1 pouch each cookie icing in white, red, blue, and green
  • 12 large marshmallows
  • 1 tube black decorating gel
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  • Rainbow sprinkles or decorating chips

Follow preparation and baking directions on sugar cookie pouch for making 12 large cookies.

On cooled cookies, draw a “snow puddle” with while cookie icing as shown on the picture below. Draw the outline of the puddle first then go out and fill in the shape. While icing is still wet, place a marshmallow on the side of the cookie.

Once the icing and marshmallows have set, pipe two branches onto each cookie with the black gel. Add fingers with chocolate sprinkles.

For the face, use a small dot of white cookie icing and stick two “coal” eyes and a nose into the marshmallow with rainbow ships or sprinkles, Use black gel to create the mouth. (Aren’t you glad we have a picture to go by?)

Using the other colored cookie icing draw scarves around the base of the marshmallo. Use the white cookie icing to stick three “coal” buttons beneath the scarf.

Let cookies set for a least an hour before serving. And let’s hope that they turn out looking at least somewhat like the picture! Depending on what they look like, I may or may not post my finished cookies in another blog. Something tells me it’s going to be an interesting project.

Powdered Sugar Snowmen Cookies

  • 3/4 c Land O’Lakestm butter (NOT margarine), softened
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • For decorations: 1/2 c powdered sugar, decorator black sugar pearls, orange jimmies, 20 small gumdrops, fruit snack roll, if desired

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine sugar and butter in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until creamy. Add egg; continue beating until well mixed, Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat at low speed until well mixed.

Shape dough into 30 cookies. Ten 1 1/4″ balls (about 2 tbl of dough). Ten 1″ balls (about 1 tbl of dough). Ten 3/4″ balls (about 1 tsp of dough) Place same size balls, 2″ apart, onto ungreased cookie sheets. NOTE: this means three different cookie sheets.

Bake the 1 1/4″ balls 9-11 minutes. Bake the 1″ balls 8-9 minutes. And bake the 3/4″ balls 5-7 minutes or until edges are slightly browned. Cool one minute on cookie sheet and remove to cooling rack. Cool ten minutes. Timing is going to be tricky here, so pay close attention to what you’re doing..

After cookies have cooled, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar. Press black sugar pearls into large cookies (base and body) for buttons and into smallest cookie to create the face. Use a toothpick to create a hole for the nose and press orange jimmies into the hole for the nose.

Stack cookies to make the snowmen as shown in the picture. I’d use a little bit of icing to make them stay stacked,

Now, for each hat cut 1 gumdrop in half; flatten bottom half into 3/4″ disk (discard or eat the top half). Cut base off another gumdrop; attach, sticky side down to disk. Place on top of snowmen. If you’re not tired of doing all this by this time, use the fruit roll to create a scarf, if desired. Use the picture below as a guide.

Now, if you and I survive all of this cookie creating, I think we deserve a cup of delicious hot chocolate with whipped cream, and a touch of Bailey’s tm (to go with the cookies, of course!)

Happy Snow Day, wherever you are! And if you do get some of that cold white stuff like we did, be safe and enjoy it!

Gingerbread House Fails Inspection

I really didn’t plan on having a second blog on this subject, at least not this Christas season.

Christmas may be over, but there are still a few stories left to tell.

But since I did buy those four little gingerbread house kits right before Thanksgiving, I thought, what the heck?!

And as you may have already guessed, it certainly wasn’t the greatest of Christmas projects. The granddaughters still had fun, as kids usually do. But Mom and Grandmom? Not so much.

I think I mentioned in my previous gingerbread story I’d ordered these cute gingerbread house kits on line because they weren’t in stock in the store. Not in any of the stores in our area. Being a regular online shopper, it shouldn’t have been a problem, right? Well, it wasn’t. Until we opened the first two kits and several pieces were broken. And of course they were the little reindeer gingerbread cookies that the younger granddaughter wanted to do, and the sparkly pink cottage the older one wanted to make.  And none of the stores had received any more.

So on to the set of the four small gingerbread chalets.  Shouldn’t be too bad, right? Actually they’re really cute. Right?

Notice I said there were FOUR of them. Yes, they were small, but what was I thinking when I ordered them? That was four times putting together houses, icing the walls and the roofs, making sure they all stayed “glued” together til the icing hardened…. Why did I do that? And yes, I was also thinking to myself, why weren’t THESE the ones that were broken?

As you’ve guessed, the construction job is left to me. My daughter doesn’t have the patience. She and her daughters like the decorating part.

So being the good grandmother that I am, I set out to construct the FOUR little houses. Which came in a block of pieces that needed to be (carefully) broken apart in order to make the house.  And I do have to confess, I almost wanted them to break in the wrong places so I’d have an excuse not to put them together. But being a good grandmother, I separated the pieces carefully, and none of them broke. Would it be wrong of me to say “unfortunately”? Yeah, probably.

Actually, three out of the four went together fairly easy. It was that last one with the funky side roof that didn’t. If you look carefully, the roof sort of has a gap in it.  Which was filled in with a lot of the “snow” icing, which will most likely cause it to fall in. Our son in law said it most certainly failed the final building inspection! (I’m not even sure it had a building permit to start!)

But I guess the other three don’t look all that bad. At least the girls had fun decorating them, and getting almost as many candy decorations and sprinkles on the floor as they did on the houses.

Of course, as luck would have it, when we returned the broken kits, the cashier told us they had pre-assembled gingerbread houses in the Christmas department which only needed the icing and candy decorations to be added to it. Well…….let me tell you how quickly we bought one of those!

You certainly don’t think I’d try to make one from scratch, do you? After all, these were difficult enough!

And even better, guess whose job it was to help his daughters decorate that house! And Daddy did a really good job!  I think we have a new assignment for him next Christmas. Why not?

Christmas Cookies with the Grands, 2021

Last year was their first adventure helping. It was a fun time of getting sprinkles all over the kitchen floor as well as all over the cookie sheets, and sometimes even on the cookies themselves. Not to mention stuck to their fingers and all over their faces.

This year was no exception, but the decorating did turn out a little bit better.

A book I just finished reading yesterday had a scene with kids helping make Christmas cookies and getting flour all over the counters rather than in the mixing bowl. But as their grandmother explained to their worried mother, “if you’re cooking with children, it’s about keeping it fun and simple. The end result isn’t always important.”

I probably need to keep that in mind. 

Now I didn’t let them help with mixing up the ingredients, because we were on a time schedule, and we had guests coming over, along with the kids having to be somewhere else as well. 

Next year we can attempt to do that. They’ll each be a year older, and it might not be quite as messy. Well, wishful thinking there, too. But you never know.

To save time I’d already mixed the dough and was ready to put it in the cookie press when they arrived. I’d even pulled the jars of sprinkles and colored sugars out and set them on the counter. And their Christmas aprons were all ready for them, too. 

Little cookie bakers and tasters, after all, have to have the appropriate aprons to protect their clothes from stray sprinkles. 

Of course, like last year, they decided it was easier to decorate the cookies while sitting on the floor. Which means it was also easier to get the sprinkles on the floor as well as on the cookies. And yes, we blocked the dogs from coming in there to help!

It’s always an adventure when you’re doing pressed cookies with grandchildren. No sooner did I get them pressed out on the cookie sheets and put them in front of the girls, then they picked their favorite decorating colors and dumped the sugar on them. 

Actually, Ryleigh grabbed a jar of sprinkles with no inner plastic lid for shaking and dumped them out, so their mommy had some scooping up to do so we could at least see the cookies under the pile of red sugar. 

Because Rachel is older she did a little better job, and actually tried to help her little sister. And they were both really proud of their creations. 

I promised them next year they could help with mixing the dough and possibly helping me press them out. (Maybe we can practice on Easter cookies?) They do need to learn, and it’s not too early to start.

And for those of you who want a good pressed cookie recipe, here’s the one we use. There’s still time to make a batch! And I have two granddaughters who’d be happy to help!

Pressed Sugar/Spritz Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat butter for 30 seconds on high. Add sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat til combined, Beat in egg, vanilla and almond extract. Beat in flour, a little at a time, until mixed.

Force unchilled dough through cookie press onto cookie sheet. Decorate with colored sugar and sprinkles as desired. Or watch the kids or grandkids do their thing.

Bake 8 minutes til edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

Happy baking, and Merry Christmas from all of us!

Making a Gingerbread House

All the pictures make it look so easy. Right?

Mom and the kids sitting around the table, maybe even with Grandmom, and happily frosting/gluing the pieces together, adding the candy, and then a perfect gingerbread house is completed.

May I ask you, have you ever really tried doing one? With or without kids? It’s really not as easy as those pictures show. And it definitely doesn’t always turn out like it looks like on the box. Even for those of us who are usually quite crafty.

How do I know? Well, last year my daughter and I decided to make one with the grandkids. At the time Rachel was 4 and a half; Ryleigh a year and a half. 

I guess I should’ve said my daughter and I decided to make one. While the kids watched. Or played something else. Or waited to eat the candy that went on it.

We’d actually done one the year before. That didn’t turn out well at all. Besides Rachel being a little too young to really be a lot of help, actually putting these together isn’t that easy. The sides and roof pieces that have to be assembled are “glued” with white frosting. The frosting doesn’t work like my hot glue gun! And getting them to stay upright and in place isn’t a piece of cake, or gingerbread, either! 

Trust me, our finished product from that year certainly isn’t worthy of being seen on here!

Last year though, was a bit easier. But only just a bit.  It may be because we used a different brand gingerbread house kit. Maybe because the grandkids were a year older. Or maybe we’d just learned from last year what NOT to do.

Our daughter learned what not to do. She learned that she had no patience in putting the sides and roof together. So guess who got the job? The same person who did it the year before. As you can see from the pictures.

And getting the roof on and actually getting it stay is almost an engineering project. But I did it. And when the frosting “glue” dried, it actually stayed together. That was an improvement over last year!

Next was the part our daughter and Rachel were looking forward to. Decorating the house. The kits contain all the candy needed for the houses, and there’s usually some left over. Which makes all the kids, big and little, quite happy.

And our daughter and older granddaughter really enjoyed putting the candy on, even though not all of it went on the house. What did little Ryleigh do? She watched for a few minute, grabbed a bit of the candy, and went back to playing and watching cartoons.

Fortunately the house turned out fairly well. We were all proud of our accomplishment. 

So proud, in fact I actually got another kit for them, and we all put together a gingerbread camper. Which wasn’t quite as difficult. Or else we’d learned a little more about how to do it.

So what do you think about our collection? Are you ready to try and do your own? You don’t even need to have kids or grandkids to try it. But that makes it more fun. 

Or you can do what our daughter did and order an acrylic one to put together. Much easier. And lasts a lot longer. Isn’t it cute? And you knew it had to have a flamingo with it!

Here are the finished products. What do you think?

To show how brave we’ve become after this, we now have four gingerbread kits to make this year. We may or may not write about those, depending on the finished products. But you never know!

And why not send your own gingerbread house pictures in a comment. We’d love to see them!

Happy holiday creating! The fun is just beginning!

My Favorite Cookie

Everyone has a favorite. Chocolate chip cookies are usually number one in almost everyone’s answer. With or without nuts.  It’s a big debate, though. Actually I don’t like nuts in cookies. So there’s my answer on the chocolate chip cookie question 

But they aren’t my favorite. They’re good, yes, but my very favorite is oatmeal raisin. And amazingly enough, my best friend has the same favorite! What are the chances of that!

However, recently we’ve both changed our mind, just a little. Because last year when I was making Christmas cookies,  of course I had to have my favorite kind included. I’d already mixed up the dough, and preheated the oven, but when I reached for my box of raisins, they weren’t there!

Now I almost always grab all my ingredients before I start mixing, but this time….well obviously I messed up.

So now what to do? I really didn’t want to do them with chocolate chips, and plain oatmeal cookies are still good, but I needed to have something else in them. Then I saw the package of Craisins. Well they’re similar to raisins, so what the heck?! 

And I mixed those in. And baked the cookies. 

And I tried them as soon as they were cool enough to eat! Absolutely delicious! Definitely a new favorite. Move over raisins! You’ve been replaced!

So if you want to try this new favorite, here’s the recipe for Oatmeal Craisin Cookies. Or, you can always buy a packaged mix and add the craisins like you would those boring raisins. Just don’t tell your secret!

  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 – 8 oz Craisins

Preheat over to 375 degrees. In medium bowl with an electric mixer beat butter and sugar together til light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well.

Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in Craisins. (And don’t eat any of them as you’re doing that; save them for the cookies!.)

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake 10-12 minutes til golden brown Remove to wire racks and cool. And then you can eat a few as soon as they’ve cooled down a bit. You don’t want to burn your mouth!

And if you want to be adventurous, throw in some white baking chips (about 2/3 cup) with those Craisins! They’re awesome as well!

And now…I need a cookie! Or three.

And by the way, did you know that oatmeal raisin/craisin cookies count as breakfast? At least they do in my book. After all it’s a combination of oatmeal and fruit. So……

Leftover Halloween Candy?

That’s sort of like how to use leftover wine, isn’t it? Like who really has leftover Halloween candy? (or wine?)

Well, actually, we usually do have some leftover Halloween candy each year. We usually buy too much (on purpose) because we do enjoy it, and even though I am still working remotely, I do like to have a candy dish in my home office. And what better to fill it with then those miniature pieces of candy that are so tempting.

And at Halloween it’s worse, because the bags are bigger, and they’re usually on sale.

After Halloween it’s even worse because the bags are marked down even more, and if you get to the store early on the day after, you can really stock up.

When our daughter was still a child, we would sit on the floor after trick or treating with her and our neighbor’s son and sort through all the candy, making sure it was ok to eat of course, and then exchanging pieces back and forth if one kid didn’t like something and the other did. We all made out fairly well from the candy exchange and of course, ended up with a lot more in each house than we really needed to eat!

Now that our daughter is married with children of her own, we don’t have as much leftover candy from trick or treating, because we go to their house and join the granddaughters on their Halloween trick or treating. Their neighborhood goes all out for Halloween, with most of the homes decorating their yards with all manner of blow ups, giant spiders, skeletons; you name it, and it’s there somewhere. Many of the residents (and a lot of them are dressed up as well) sit outside in their driveways with their portable firepits going and hand out candy to all the kids. Some even have adult beverage treats for the adults! Those of us with children (or grandchildren in our case) usually rent golf carts from the clubhouse and decorate them, and then drive around the community with the little ones to get their goodies. It’s really a lot of fun, and much easier to ride in the golf carts than walk, because their development is so big.

But back to the candy. I’ve been hearing ads on the radio and seeing Facebook posts about where to donate leftover candy. Well, that may be good for some people, but chocolate candy is a bit pricey, and call me selfish, but I sort of want to eat it…..?

Last year, I ran across a couple of recipes for brownies using Halloween candy. And I thought, why not try it? I had a big bowl of it sitting around in the kitchen, and since I do enjoy baking I tried it. And it was really good! And easy.

So here’s the recipe for those of you who want to try something new!

Leftover Halloween Candy Brownies

  • 1 cup + 2 tbl flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • t/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • 1/2 cup chopped milk chocolate candy bars

OR, you may want to use a boxed brownie mix, follow those directions and just add the candy!

To make the brownies from “scratch”, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ square baking pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat brown sugar, butter, and vanilla together in a separate large bowl using an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in egg. Gradually beat in flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined.

Fold in candy and press into prepared baking pan. You can add a little extra, which I did, but just don’t add too much or it won’t cook properly. Bake in pre-heated oven 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan on wire rack for ten minutes and then cut into squares.

Then enjoy! They’re delicious. In fact, I think I’ll go make some!

Time for Snow Cream!

When I was a child/teenager growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, snow happened a bit more frequently than it usually does now (except for this week’s storm…which may be sticking around awhile). Schools would almost always be closed for up to a week because we got so much, the road crews couldn’t keep up with it all, especially on all the back roads in the area. And that’s sort of the case here right now.

One year it snowed so much, my mother’s white car was literally impossible to see. She had parked it at the end of our long driveway, thinking she wouldn’t be able to get it out if we had a lot of snow. We did. And one of our neighbors had to dig the car out for her, but only after a couple of days when the roads were clear enough to drive on.

My friends who still live there still talk about how one of our friend’s fathers hooked all of our sleds up to his tractor one evening and pulled us around the field for at least an hour, had us warm up by a roaring bonfire (complete with roasting marshmallows on wire coat hangers!), and then his wife had us all inside for hot chocolate. I think most of us were sophomores in high school then, and of course, we were all invincible! I can’t remember how many of us there were, but it was a blast! Now…he’d probably be arrested for child endangerment…if our parents even let us go!

Yes, those were the days….we all had sleds, and would go to a hill in town and sled down for hours. We got chilled to the bone, our clothes got soaked…but who cared! We threw snowballs at each other, and at some of the adults unlucky enough to be in our way. And no one got mad at us. We were young and having fun.

So for those of you wanting to make some with this latest storm, here are several recipes to try. Which of course, you can only make when you have clean fresh snow and we still have quite a bit around here. But for those of you in Florida or California, you’re probably out of luck because I haven’t been able to find any substitutions for snow!

Basic Snow Creamsnow cream sprinkles
1 c milk
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Whisk ingredients together and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. (Note: Be sure to pour the SNOW into the mixture; not the other way around!) Mix together; re-freeze, covered, if necessary, and serve. (You might also add colored sprinkles or colored sugar on top, or even mini chocolate chips)

NOW…that’s not all. While I was researching, I came across several variations of this basic recipe that sound extra yummy. So….how about these:

 

Chocolate Peppermint Snow Creamchocolate snow cream
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
¼ c unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp peppermint extract

Mix together and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. Cover, and re-freeze an hour or so til it’s the right consistency.

Amaretto Caramel Snow Cream
snow cream1 c white chocolate chips
½ c thick caramel sauce
1/3 c milk
½ tsp salt

Mix together in microwave for 30 seconds; stir and repeat until smooth. LET COOL (or you’ll have caramel water!) I’d put it in the freezer and check it often til it’s chilled.

Add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. And the best part, ¼ c amaretto. Resist temptation to try immediately; cover and freeze to desired consistency.

Cake Batter Snow Cream
snow-ice-cream-0131/2 c sweetened condensed milk
¼ c yellow cake mix
3 tbsp cake flavored vodka (the recipes just keep getting better…)
2 tbl milk
1 tsp vanilla

Combine above ingredients and add 8 cups of CLEAN snow. Take a taste if you must, then cover and freeze to desired consistency.

Now….after finding all of these goodies, I can only say one thing…

WE’VE GOT THE SNOW! LET’S MAKE SOME SNOW CREAM!