Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gluten Free Coconut Frosted Brownies

More chocolate today - with a taste of the tropics...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Penny Saved

So, one of the goals for 2012 is to get that budget more under control.  At our house, it's an ongoing mission to find ways to cut expenses, no matter what's going on with the economy.  Maybe this is your goal, too - at least it should be.  All of us can afford to go on a "spending diet".

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guess What Else I'm Doing Today

My personal email got hacked overnight, so I will not only be changing my address, I will be changing all my passwords.  Lots of fun!

Over the next 30 days, my emails will be transferred to the new address, which is nice, because as they roll in, I can edit out more subscriptions, and correct the ones I want to keep.

So, the morning I get up early to get a bunch of work done for Hubby before I start my own stuff, I'm ending up on the computer jumping through hoops because some nut job decided to pick me.

Lovely.

Protect yourself from this nonsense, and change your passwords every 30 days.  When I worked at IBM as a subcontractor, we were required to do so.  I thought I picked a really good password and have used it way too long.  It was something that only a few people would know about me.  Guess what?  Computers can randomly generate passwords, and somebody finally randomly generated mine.  When you create a new password, include numbers and letters.  In fact, try using numbers for letters, like a 4 for an A, a 3 for an E, etc.

So today while your cleaning out your emails and other folders on your computer, CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS!

Cleaning Up and Cleaning Out

You have to start somewhere, so today I thought we'd start some cleaning in a place you may rarely go...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Getting Ready for the New Year

We've already talked about a few simple ways to get more organized now to get even more organized for the New Year.  I'd like to talk to you about your resolutions...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Some photo highlights of the festivities at the Suburban Prairie Home:
Goodies goodies and more goodies:



Theme trees:


Homemade presents:
Hubby is 6"1" and hates the fact that there are never afghans that will cover him completely.  Princess made this one for him.  This photo is from when she laid out the squares the other day to start stitching them together.  It is now neatly sewn together and has a pretty orange border.
Finished size: roughly 5' x 7'.  And yes, she designed and stitched the whole thing herself with no help from anyone.  And she did it in about 3 weeks.  Pretty amazing, huh?!

Speaking of Princess...

She just rearranged her room recently.  It now has more open floor space - which is good for someone who does projects like afghans.  She also likes doing photography, and frequently shows her photos in our county fair.  When she did her re-do this year, she put all her winning photos in black frames, and made a photo wall.  Several years ago, we repainted her room a very bright yellow.  Like you can see it from space yellow.  You can imagine how "graphic" the black frames look on this wall.  Just wear your mental sunglasses - like I said, the yellow is very bright.

So this year, after seeing all the wonderful ways that other craft bloggers were using fabric to create fabulous design elements, I decided to make something for Princess' room.  I'll post the how-to soon.
I thought the round frames and fabric would soften all the rectangular shapes on the wall, plus they would add an element of whimsy.  Because there is a light, a medium and a dark, she can also choose to use them bring more visual interest to a particular photo.  Oh, and the real kicker - the light fabric has floral shapes that nearly match the floral shapes on the new comforter she bought herself exactly.  Way to go, Mom!

Now don't worry, I didn't forget Bubba!  He and his friends are really into animated characters these days.  In fact, he recently picked out an earflap hat for himself that's Cookie Monster.  And his friends all have those earflap hats with other characters as well.  So, when I've had some free time lately (as in free from kidlets, particularly Bubba), I've been working on this:

 It's a Nyan Cat scarf.  Look him up on Google.  By the way, he is proof that you are what you eat because his body is a strawberry Pop-Tart.  The rainbow behind him is the result of eating Skittles.  What can I say - 12-year-old-boy humor.
Sorry, no how-to or pattern for this one.  I was too busy trying to make the little guy to write anything down.    If you would like to make one for yourself, there are patterns available at Ravelry.com.

No homemade gift for Hubby this year.  Although, I'm sure he'll say he was happy having an amazing Christmas dinner that was safe for all of us to eat, and the fact that our family was together, and everyone had a really good time.

After all, isn't that the best part of Christmas?!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Most Amazing Crock Pot Ham EVER

If you're in a hurry for a Christmas ham, this is simply the most amazing crock pot ham you will ever make or eat. 
Ok, so I'm biased - but I had 5 other biased reviewers tell me it was pretty tasty also...

Anyway, this past week in all the craziness of trying to do holiday things with the kids but still get them
out of the house to make their presents, and cook, and clean, and sleep in there somewhere, I
lost my favorite crock pot ham recipe.  It's true.  I only make ham twice a year, and I only used that
recipe once last Easter.  Now it's gone.  Like it must have gotten into some papers where it shouldn't
have been and it got recycled gone.  So I searched the web for it, but never found it.  Well, not
exactly.  Everything I found seemed to be just different enough that it wasn't what I remembered.  We
will not comment on my memory these days, either.

So I found two that intrigued me, combined them both, and of course, tweaked them a little bit
based on what I had on hand.  Here are the delicious results:

SPH Crock Pot Ham
1 bone in ham, approx. 5-6 pounds (we get ours from a local farmer, so we know it's gluten free)
2 cups brown sugar
3 cups apple cider
1 1/2 cups maple syrup - divided - and use the real stuff, not Aunt Jemima
2 T. pumpkin pie spice
1 T. dried orange peel (I used the kind from a spice jar, but you could also use fresh or homemade)
1 t. ground cloves (feel free to add more if you like to your taste)
1-2 T. vanilla (I just used what was left in my little bottle)

Put brown sugar in bottom of a large crock pot.  It has to be big enough to fit Piggy plus cover his little
self.  Then place ham on top of sugar.  However he fits best works just fine - no need to worry about fat side down. In a small
mixing bowl, combine apple cider, 1 cup maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, orange peel, cloves and vanilla.  Pour mixture over ham.  Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup of maple syrup.  Cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve hot, and drizzle with glaze from the
crock pot if desired.

This was quite literally melt-in-your-mouth good!  Plus, it has all the benefits of doing anything in a crock pot.  I know some of the ingredients may not be what you have on hand, but this is one of the few occasions it's worth getting those little extra splurges.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

Twenty Five Treats for the Holidays - Day 24 and Day 25

It's a two-fer today!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Technical Difficulties

So this morning you probably received part of a post about our January Craftivism Challenge.  It is a work in progress that is not scheduled to go out until January 7th.  I was having trouble with the scheduler this morning, so hopefully you weren't too confused!  Thanks for your understanding, and wait til you see the finished product!

Twenty Five Treats for the Holidays - Day 21

A post in TECHNICOLOR - so good it's dangerous!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gluten Free Houska Bread

A long time ago, when Hubby had to drive all over the Chicago area for work, he used to visit this little bakery in Berwyn that makes THE BEST HOUSKA BREAD IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE!  As time went on, he would only stop in and pick some up if he was in the area, which was less and less often.  And then the gluten-free thing happened...

Coupons Dot Com

Just received in my inbox this morning...

Coupons.com has coupons on a bunch of different Pillsbury products.  If you use a lot of name-brand items, signing up for their free service will be worth it for you!  Remember the mantra "on sale and with a coupon"!

On sale and with a coupon!

Check out their site, and hopefully, you'll be able to snag some other coupons, too.

Twenty Five Treats for the Holidays - Day 20

Gluten free cookies - AT LAST!!!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gluten Free Christmas Dinner Menu & Plan of Attack

I have met many MANY folks lately who are new to the whole gluten free thing.  Your first gluten free holiday is very scary.  Like lying awake for nights on end, please leave the nightlight on scary!  So hopefully, this peek into our home will soothe those fears and give you a bit of confidence in the kitchen this Christmas.  For those of you who aren't gluten free, these ideas may be helpful for you in the future should GF guests be heading your way.

One thing that helped me the most when Hubby faced the GF Forever monster is this simple fact:  meats, fruits, and vegies in their natural state are all GF.  Really.  Those first few days, we ate a LOT of rice, chicken and broccoli.  It's a good thing my kids like broccoli as much as I do.  They ate enough to choke a barnful of elephants!  So if you're not sure even where to begin, start here.  Pass GO.  Collect $200.  Well, not really.

So that's where we start our menu planning.  We make sure to get a GF ham from our CSA farmers.  I use this recipe (I use a teaspoon or 2 of dry mustard instead of the bottled liquid stuff), and put Piggy in the crockpot.  He'll stay warm and comfortable all day and turn out DEEEE-licious!  About an hour before he is ready to make his tableside debut, I make the glaze and pour it over him in the crockpot.  And what do you normally serve with a ham?  Potatoes, of course.  Potatoes are naturally GF.  This year, Princess is contributing Creamy Ranch Potatoes from Stephanie O'Dea's More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow.  We are also doing Vegan Potato Curry.  I took a LIBERAL amount of help from the store for both of these - Simply Potatoes (brand) has potatoes that are diced into nice little cubes.  They come prepackaged with onions.  We will be using those to make our two potato dishes.    Since both dishes require the potatoes to be preboiled, the leftover water will be used to make GF potato rolls with a Gluten Free Pantry Sandwich Bread mix.  Use the potato water instead of the liquid called for on the box, and put roughly equal amounts of bread dough into the cups of a muffin tin.We are making Rachael Ray's Apple and Onion Stuffin Muffins using Udi's bread that's been cut up into cubes and dried in the oven (bake for a few hours at lowest setting on your oven - mine is 170).  On the side, we will have salad from a bag and some steamed California mix vegies, and I'm also taking help from the store by picking up some quinoa salad at the deli counter at Whole Foods.

Now it wouldn't be Christmas without all those wonderful treats, would it?!  The kiddos and I will be making some you've already seen here and a few that will be coming up soon.  If you want INSANE pumpkin pie, pick up gluten free crusts at Whole Foods and use this recipe for the filling.  Use a whole baked sweet potato instead of the ones in the can.  Definitely safer this way, and better for you, too.  The recipe says it makes one pie, but it will fill 2 of the GF crusts. And both whipped cream in a can and Cool-Whip (brand) are GF.

Sure it sounds like a lot, but do yourself a favor, and start with a cooking timeline on a piece of paper.  On the far right side, write down the time you want to serve everything, and work backwards from there to the left.  Bake what can be baked ahead of time, take help from the store for your peeling and chopping if you can.  Use your crockpot.  Use your teenagers and whoever else has hands that can help.  If someone offers, let them help!

Now that you've seen our menu, and I told you all my secrets for pulling this off, here's a snapshot of my timeline:
Friday:
Crockpot - ham, Princess' potatoes
Whole house tidy

Thursday:
Baking - pies, rolls
Cook potatoes for curry, Princess' potatoes - SAVE WATER for rolls
Decorate cookies (recipe tomorrow!!!!)

Wednesday:
Whole Foods
Crocheting
Baking - cookies, chex mix, garbanzo beans
Chocolate dipped graham crackers (Use Smorables brand)

Tuesday:
Finish any upstairs cleaning
Downstairs tidy up
Sewing
Crocheting

I'll let ya go now - hopefully feeling encouraged and with a "can-do" attitude and some really great recipes.  I know it's hard, but hang in there.  Don't expect perfection, and give yourself room to make mistakes.  It's ok.  Your family loves you anyway.  And so do I.  Just breathe.  It'll be ok.  No, it will be AWESOME and AMAZING and BETTER THAN YOU EXPECT!

Twenty Five Days of Treats - Day 19 and Princess Makes It Monday

Something fun and snacky - great for parties, for eating while watching It's a Wonderful Life, or for putting in jars to give to friends.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Twenty Five Days of Treats - Day 13

Ok, so more baking and more chocolate (like more chocolate could ever be bad).  This is a recipe we've baked in my family for years, and I'm going to show you how to make it even easier!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Twenty Five Days of Treats - Day 12 - and Giveaway Winner!

So today's treat is BIRTHDAY CAKE!!!!  Yep, my favorite birthday cake from when I was growing up.  It was one of the few things my mom made that was amazing (remember the butterscotch story?). This recipe was actually handed down from my great-grandmother, and it really is fantastic.



Edna Pearl's Red Devils Food Cake
2 c. flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten stiff as whipped cream
3 oz. baking chocolate, melted
3/4 c. buttermilk, or soured milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350.  If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own "soured milk" by adding 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup milk.  Allow milk to stand on top of your stove while your oven preheats (speeds up the process and makes the milk REALLY nice and thick).

In large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Cream shortening and sugar, and slowly add beaten eggs.  Stir in melted chocolate.  Combine milk and vanilla.  Add milk mixture and dry ingredients alternately to chocolate mixture.  Then slowly add boiling water.

Bake in well-greased layer pans for 45 minutes.

Cool, then frost.  Allow to stand for 2 hours for color to develop.

If baked in a 9x13 pan, bake for 25-30 minutes.  Ten minutes before done, sprinkle with sugar and finish baking.  Top has a crispy crust and does not need to be frosted.

So obviously, I can't have this exact recipe any more. Here's how I've adapted it to make it safe:

SPH Chocolate Cake
1 box Betty Crocker (brand) Gluten Free Devil's Food Cake Mix OR Gluten Free Pantry (brand) Decadent Chocolate Cake mix
2 eggs, well beaten
1 T vanilla
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk

Combine all ingredients in mixer bowl, beating until smooth.  Bake in greased layer cake pans according to package directions.

And this is the ultimate frosting!

Fluffy White (aka Gooey) Frosting
1 egg white, chilled
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. boiling water
1/4 t. cream of tartar


Combine egg white, sugar and cream of tartar in a mixer bowl.  Begin beating in boiling water.  Continue beating until very thick and fluffy.  Think egg whites with stiff peaks because this is a glorified meringue.  This recipe frosts two 9" layers.

After your cake layers have cooled, frost them with the Gooey Frosting.  If you'd like something a bit more Christmas-y, sprinkle the frosting with colored sugar.  If you have the silver sugar, the cake would look very snowy.  Even just plain, the frosting tends to look like snowdrifts.  My mom used to use a spoon and make little peaks all over the cake.  I chose not to - I was hungry!

No matter how you do it - this is the BEST birthday cake ever!

 ***GIVEAWAY IS EXPIRED***

And now on to our Giveaway WINNER!!! Congrats to Emily!  The "magic number" from random.org was 2.
Please email me at the address in the sidebar with your mailing address, and I will get these beauties shipped out to you ASAP!  Thank you all so much for your wonderful encouraging comments, and for liking and tweeting about me and the giveaway!  I am so grateful to be so blessed!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Twenty Five Days of Treats - Day 11

Today's treat isn't really candy, and it's definitely not a cookie.  Someone in my family used to call these kinds of confections "sweet nothings" - can't exactly remember who it was, but I love the name!  I would describe the flavor as sweet and rich and bright, a bit surprising...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rit Dye Giveaway


This AWESOME giveaway is going on over at Positively Splendid - one of the blogs I follow.  Can you imagine -EVERY color of Rit Dye to play with!  Now I know what I want for my birthday!

I would loooooooove to try to dye some fabric and yarn in a thrifted crockpot...

I could color on some wooden embroidery hoops...

Oh, the ideas are floating in fast and furious - it's a good thing I had some coffee with homemade peppermint syrup today!

If you are as inspired as I am, head on over, and enter!

And if you haven't already - be sure to enter the giveaway on Day 5!

Twenty Five Days of Treats - Day 9

More yumminess in a cup!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's a Party at Creative Princess

Just posted an item for the linky party at Creative Princess.  You'll have to go over there to see what I chose!  Just click the button in the side bar.

Also, visit the blog hop to get more holiday inspiration!

And... don't forget to leave comments on Day 5 to enter the giveaway!

Twenty Five Days of Treats - Day 8

MORE CHOCOLATE!!!! Like it's a bad thing...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Couple Reminders

Just wanted everyone to remember a couple things:

1) Click the button to visit the blog hop. Then, once you're there, click the images below the post to visit all the participating blogs. Be sure to leave some blog love!

2)Entries for the giveaway continue.  Be sure to enter as many ways as you are able so you have a better chance of winning!  Then, leave a comment on Day 5 for each of the ways.  For example, if you subscribe or follow SPH, leave a comment that says so.  If you go to Facebook and like SPH, leave a comment.  If you post on FB about the giveaway, leave a comment.  Leave a comment that says your favorite cookie idea from Day 1.  Following on Twitter?  Comment.  Tweet about the giveaway - comment.  You get the picture!  You can leave up to 8 comments!  That's 8 chances to win!  You can enter up until 11:59 pm on Sunday, and I will choose the winner on Monday.  By the way, to ensure you get your prize in time for Christmas, I will be mailing it out on Tuesday.

Happy Wednesday!

Twenty Five Days of Treats - Day 7

Here's a warm treat today - to make for yourself, for your kids and with your kids, or to give away.  This is my signature recipe for hot cocoa mix.  So good, no need to add marshmallows!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We've Been Invited...

to participate in a Blog Hop!

Visit the link above and check out all the amazing ideas you can link to. Be sure to leave some blog love!

Twenty Five Days of Treats - Day 6

So today's treat is a gift to give or for yourself:  The Best Basic Bath Salts EVER!  They are made from simple, inexpensive ingredients, and you can jazz them up if you'd like, or not.  This is a great teacher, scout leader, in-law gift.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Twenty Five Treats for the Holidays - Day 4

Today's treat is some quiet time for yourself to just do a little knitting.  Here's a project to keep or to give - a handknit dishcloth. 


Now, let me tell you, it doesn't sound all that exciting, but these dishcloths are amazing multi-taskers! First, they are rugged and tough, and don't wimp out on tough jobs like scrubbing goopy messes from a stovetop. They are gentle enough to be used for a child's washcloth. When dry, they make great dusting cloths.  They are also THE PERFECT SIZE for a woman's hand - not too big, not too small.


Make one or a bunch to give away, and use fun colors to brighten up those dreary jobs!
If you knitted along on the scarf for Special Olympics during our Nine Days of Knitting, this pattern will sound EXREMELY familiar.  Actually, it's been the basis for many patterns of items I've made, including baby afghans.  It's all over the internet under various names, but I learned it as...

Granny's Favorite Dishcloth
1 ball cotton worsted weight yarn, your choice of color and brand (Peaches and Creme, for example)
Size 7 or 8 knitting needles - use whichever you feel most comfortable with - I've used both

Cast on 4 stitches.  Knit across
K2, yo, k across.
Repeat until you have 44 stitches.
K1, k2tog, yo, k2tog, k across.
Repeat until you have 4 stitches.
Knit across.
Bind off.

So the dishcloth is basically the points of our scarves, but with more stitches, and no straight sides in between.  Your finished cloth should be about 7" across each side.  A little bigger, a little smaller, no big deal.  It's a dishcloth, not a prom dress.

There are several brands of 100% cotton yarn on the market - I've used Sugar-n-Cream and Peaches-n-Creme, whichever is available at whatever store I'm at and is on sale.  Usually, a ball runs about $2, and you can make 2 dishcloths from it.

So take some time for you today - curl up in a comfy chair, put your feet up, and make yourself a dishcloth or a dozen!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Twenty Five Treats for the Holidays - Day 3

So, now you've gotten a whole cupboard's worth of cookie recipes to kick start your Holiday baking.  How about some cupcakes?
Start with a basic, but slightly tweaked, recipe:

1 box chocolate cake mix (I've used Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate for these, but I've also used Betty's GF chocolate cake mix with great results)
1/2 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise (yes, you read that correctly - and don't use any other brand or "salad dressing")
1/2 cup water
1 egg.

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer, and mix until well combined and smooth.  Put cupcake liners in a muffin tin, and fill them about half-full with cake batter.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or til tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Allow to cool, then frost as desired.

This is the closest I've ever come to the recipe that my mom used to use for my birthday cake (stay tuned for that recipe!).  I almost cried the first time I tried it.  They are amazing and delicious!

Ok, so let's play with the basic cupcake!
  1. Add your choice of extracts to plain old white or yellow cake mix.  I make my own coconut extract (thanks, Alton Brown!), and it really puts that "sumthin sumthin" in a white cake, let me tell you!
  2. Want a tropical cake - add that same coconut extract and a little rum, and pineapple juice instead of water.
  3. Orange cake?  Orange juice instead of water, and a little orange food color.
  4. For our "sophisticated folks", use chocolate cake mix, orange juice and 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
  5. Spice cake?  Add pumpkin pie spice to basic cake mix.
  6. Use #5 and pumpkin instead of water to make pumpkin cake.  Make it as cupcakes, or do a 9x13 pan and some cream cheese frosting for simple pumpkin bars.  No cream cheese frosting on hand?  Use a can of frosting and a 3 oz. block of cream cheese.  Beat them together.
  7. Add sprinkles to your batter.
  8. Or chocolate chips.  The pumpkin cake with chocolate chips is amazing, by the way.  No need to frost - just eat them as they are.
  9. Stick a bite-sized candy bar into chocolate cupcakes.  Peanut butter cups are my favorite, but Snickers and Milky Way are also delicious.  Top with ganache (fancy word, simple technique) for super indulgence.
  10. Do the chocolate mint thing - add 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract.  Make it a big bang by adding candy cane pieces, Ande's Candy's baking bits, or chocolate chips.
  11. Or do the chocolate cinnamon thing - 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to 1 recipe of chocolate cake mix.
  12. And, of course, for the "hippy at heart", take one batch of cake mix and divide it.  Color it how you want, and make tie-dye cupcakes.  A really good combo is taking a white cake mix, dividing it in half and doing red and green.  Drop 1 spoonful of red, 1 spoonful of green, and 1 spoonful of chocolate into each cupcake liner.  Festive, fun and SIMPLE!
So what to do with them when they've baked and cooled?  Start with a can of vanilla frosting:
  1. Add food color - and use the good stuff!  This is one area I don't skimp on.  I HIGHLY recommend the Wilton colors.  There's a very good reason these folks have been in the cake decorating business for so long.
  2. Speaking of Wilton, buy a bag of their chocolate wafers (they come in all kinds of colors) and melt 1 cup of them.  Beat the melted chocolate into the white frosting.  Sorry, need a private moment for this one.  Too good to be true.
  3. Add extract - orange, coconut, and peppermint all work well.  You can add these to canned chocolate frosting as well.  You can also use strawberry in a red frosting - kids will especially love that combo.
For the snowflake cupcakes above, I colored plain white frosting with a light blue color.  Then I used Wilton Bright White Cookie Icing.  It comes in a glue-like bottle, and works just as easily.  Be sure to follow the softening directions on the bottle.  This stuff is a miracle - it's the concrete-strength frosting used to hold gingerbread houses together, in a simple squeeze bottle.

Make circles and lines as desired to make a snowflake.  Or make concentric circles, and drag a toothpick or skewer back and forth from the center.  It's a snowflake - no 2 are alike - so make them unique!

You can also decorate the tops of cupcakes the way you would decorate the tops of cut out cookies, and don't be afraid of the everyday items like chocolate chips and just plain white sugar.

Grab your inner child and have a playdate!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Twenty Five Treats for the Holidays - Day 2

So yesterday we did the sugar cookie thing.  Today, it's time for Chocolate Chip cookies!

The SPH Recipe for Turtle Chip Cookies
1 box Betty Crocker GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix, made according to package directions
1/2 cup Heath (brand) Bit'o'Brickle bits
1/2 cup pecan pieces

Stir brickle bits and pecan pieces into chocolate chip cookie dough.  Follow package directions for baking.  Enjoy!

So, the humble chocolate chip is our focus today, and yes you really can do amazing things with this cookie, just like sugar cookie dough!

  1. Add 1/2 cup candy cane pieces, or the Andes Candies white candy cane baking chips.  Buy both when they go on sale after the holidays.  They store FOREVER!!!!
  2. Or add 1/2 cup peanut butter chips - great for those of us who LOVE those peanut butter cups!  You can even add diced up peanuts for some awesome crunch.
  3. Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder for double chocolate chip.
  4. How about mint chip?  To the double chocolate chip dough, add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract.  Maybe splurge a little and get the Andes Candies peppermint baking bits.
  5. Want mocha?  Add 1 tablespoon instant coffee to the double chocolate chip.
  6. Ooh, go all out and make mint mocha by adding the coffee to the mint chip dough.
  7. Or cinnamon mocha by adding 1 teaspoon cinnamon and the coffee to the double chocolate chip.
  8. Maybe you're one of those "sophisticated folks" - use the cinnamon in the double chocolate chip dough, then also add some grated orange peel.
  9. If you make the dough from scratch, instead of regular chocolate chips, use white chocolate chips and add 1/2 cup Craisins.  Or not - my hubby likes'em with just the white chips.
  10. Of course, we all know we can use MnM's instead of the chips - use red and green MnM's for that holiday look.
Hopefully, this gives you a little inspiration, and helps get your baking into high gear!  Lots of neat ideas, very little effort!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Twenty Five Treats for the Holidays - Day 1

Ready to have your socks knocked off?  Grab a tube of sugar cookie dough and...

  1. Cut it into slices, and bake as directed.  Decorate with sprinkles/sugars before baking or frosting as desired after baking.
  2. Slice, then roll slices into balls.  Roll balls in a cinnamon/sugar mixture - instant snickerdoodles.
  3. Add dough to a bowl with a 3 oz. package of Jello (you choose the flavor).  Stir to combine, and then a) roll into a log with waxed paper, refrigerate, slice and bake as in #1; or b) leave it soft, pack into the tube of a cookie gun, and "spritz" to your heart's content.  We've used that last recipe in my family for years - red pointsettias and bells, green Christmas trees.  Use your imagination.
  4. Instead of Jello, use about 1/2 cup of cocoa - do the log thing, or the spritz thing.
  5. Dough in bowl, add 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.  Instant spice cookies.  These are really good rolled out and cut with cookie cutters.
  6. How about "latte" cookies?  Add 1 tablespoon instant coffee to the dough, then add the insides of a vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract), or 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Chill then roll and cut.  These are phenomenal, and seem so "gourmet".  A great icing for these is melted frosting from a can.  Just frost cookies while they are still hot from the oven.  Ok, now I'm getting hungry!
  7. Eggnog cookies - add 1-2 tablespoons real rum to the dough along with 1-2 teaspoons nutmeg.  Chill, roll, and cut.
  8. Feeling really creative?  Add food color - make tie-dye cookies, or stick with simple red and green.  One year, we had a funky shaped gingerbread man.  We cut a bunch of his clones out of green cookie dough and had a "space alien Christmas".  And to heck with anyone who didn't have a sense of humor about it!  The kids had a BLAST, and memories to last a lifetime.
And speaking of cutting...

You do not need to own every shape of cookie cutter ever made with any kind of Christmas shape.  Save yourself a ton of cash, and use round biscuit cutters that come in sets.  You can stack several sizes of circles up to make little trees, or decorate them to look like Christmas ornaments.  Use cinnamon dots and other sprinkles to make snowman or Santa faces.  They don't even have to be that fancy - I've yet to see anyone turn down homemade Christmas cookies because of how they are (or aren't) frosted.  Oh, and don't forget those, like my hubby, who don't like frosting on their cookies - leave a few plain.

Don't have a set of biscuit cutters?  Not to worry - use a glass.  Use glasses of different sizes - like a large mug, a drinking glass and a shot glass.  Depending on your measuring cups, you could even use those.

Tomorrow, a requested recipe - stay tuned!