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Archive for December, 2009

As you all know we just made it back from our holiday travels to Charleston, South Carolina.  Charleston is one of my favorite cities for so many different reasons.  It is truly a beautiful city that has so much to offer.  It holds a special place in my heart.  I thought I would share the many reasons why I love this city and all the memories and all it has to offer! 

Here are a couple reasons why I have such special memories here…..

My husband and I got engaged right on the porch of this house in the above picture!  Yep!  My wonderful husband surprised me that August night by telling me there was a art show of special Southern artist at that house.  Boy was I surprised when I walked into a very quiet house with no art!  I soon forgot when I was guided to a porch decorated with candles and flowers.  I will never forget that very special night.

A year and two months after getting engaged we got married in this wonderful city!!  We actually got married in the oldest Baptist Church in Charleston. 

Now the other reasons why I love Charleston!

For it’s beauty….

For it’s wildlife….

For it’s handmade baskets by the locals….

For it’s nature….

For it’s early mornings on the water….

There is so much to love about this city.  I could only capture so much.  If you’ve never been it’s worth the trip!

Till next time….

Happy New Years Everyone!!!

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We are back home!  We made it back to sunny South Florida on Sunday afternoon.  Walking back into the house was great!  It was sad to leave Charleston, but we were all happy to get back home and back to our surroundings.  It also helped that the weather was 78 and sunny!  A great change from the cold weather in Charleston.  It makes you appreciate the mild climate we have in the winters.  However, today we are experiencing a slight cold front.  I think those of you up North would laugh at our version of a cold front.

While on our trip to Charleston I had the pleasure of making dessert for Christmas Eve dinner.  As I said in my previous post being in my mother-laws kitchen was interesting.  Let’s just put it this way, next year for Christmas I’m going to get her an electric mixer.  It was very comical watching me mix the batter for these cookie cupcakes.  Once the batter got to a certain thickness the beaters would come out of the mixer and into the bowl making a big mess.  At first I thought I was doing something wrong.  After several attempts I realized it wasn’t me but it was the mixer!  I ended up having to go back to the old method of mixing it by hand.  It made me appreciate my wonderful standing mixer sitting on my kitchen counter back at home.  I have to say I almost kissed it when I walked into the door on Sunday! 

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewarts Cupcake Cookbook.  This was a Christmas gift from my wonderful assistant at work.  Thanks Jenn!  I have had such a great time looking through the cookbook and have so many marked that I want to try.  I thought these cookie cupcakes would be a nice easy dessert and something the girls would enjoy too.  I made just a few slight changes to the recipe but for the most part I have to give Martha all the credit.  Thanks Martha! 

Just a quick note: Make sure to check them towards the end and don’t let them get too golden.

Enjoy!

Chocolate and White Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes

Print Recipe

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup light brown sugar, packed

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup milk

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Beat in vanilla.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk, and beating until combined after each.  Stir in chocolate and white chocolate chips by hand.

Fill each lined cup evenly with batter.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until pale golden and cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Transfer tins to a wire rack to cool completely before removing cupcakes. 

For chocolate topping: Place 1 cup chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute.  Remove dish carefully from microwave and stir chocolate.  If the chocolate is not melted, continue to microwave on high at 30 second intervals until melted through.  Once melted, use a fork and dip into chocolate and then drizzle on tops of cooled cupcakes.

Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature in airtight containers.

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Merry Christmas everyone!!  I hope everyone has had a very blessed day so far filled with love, laughter, family, and delicious food.  Our Christmas day has been wonderful so far.  It has actually been the calmest of all the days since arriving here in Charleston.  We are actually towards the end of our visit and it has been a great one.  I have to say, it’s been very busy since arriving!  We’ve been non-stop visiting friends and family and entertaining the girls.  We were lucky enough to take the girls to the Charleston aquarium and children’s museum.  The girls had a blast seeing all the fish, penguins, and turtles at the aquarium.  If you are ever in Charleston they are both great stops for kids!! 

Here is a picture of the girls running after their dad as we were leaving the aquarium.  What fun!

Even though our trip has been busy, I was still able to get into the kitchen and make a few things.  I have to say walking into my mother-in-laws kitchen was quite interesting.  I’m very spoiled at home because I have all my tools close by and I know where everything is.  For Christmas Eve morning I made these quick and delicious cinnamon rolls.  I thought I would share with everyone because they don’t require yeast and the waiting for the dough to rise.  These are great for breakfast any time but even special during the holidays.

Again everyone….Merry Christmas!  And thank you for all your support on my blog.  I look forward to 2010! 

Easy Cinnamon Rolls

One package frozen Pillsbury Frozen Biscuits (12 buttermilk)

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ cup pecans, chopped and toasted

 

Icing:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

3 Tbsp milk

½ tsp vanilla

For rolls:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray an 9 inch square or round pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

Place the chopped pecans on a cookie sheet and place in oven about 5 to 8 minutes until toasted. 

Arrange frozen biscuits, with sides touching, in 3 rows of 4 biscuits on a lightly floured surface. Let stand 30 to 45 minutes or until biscuits are thawed but still cool to the touch.

Sprinkle thawed biscuits lightly with flour. Press biscuit edges together, and pat to form a 10- x 12-inch rectangle of dough; spread evenly with softened butter. Stir together brown sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle evenly over butter. Sprinkle chopped pecans evenly over brown sugar mixture.

Roll up, starting at one long end; cut into 12 (about 1-inch-thick) slices. Place rolls into a lightly greased 9-inch round pan or 9-inch square pan.

 Bake at 375° for 30 to 35 minutes or until center rolls are golden brown and done; cool slightly.

 

For Icing:

Stir together 1 cup powdered sugar, 3 Tbsp. milk, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla; drizzle evenly over rolls.

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Our Christmas vacation has started!!  We had the car packed, the dog in the back, the girls in their car seats, and we were off.  As we pulled out of the driveway I thought to myself many things….did I forget anything?…did we set the alarm?…did we grab the dog food?….did we throw out the garbage in the kitchen….and my very last thought was….are we crazy!!??  Then I knew it was too late to turn back we were off for the big adventure and off to colder weather!  The morning had already been filled with adventures as we rushed around the house packing those last minute things and making sure the car was all ready to go.  We also managed to squeeze in a little outdoor playtime for the girls in hopes it would tire them out!  I of course, couldn’t help but to squeeze in some time in the kitchen to make these muffins for our trip.  We had to have snacks right?!  I also had very ripe bananas that had to be used before we headed out the door.  We managed to get everything done and get out the door only 30 minutes behind schedule.  I was only hoping that the girls would take a nap once we were on the road!  When we are home the girls usually take a great afternoon nap of about 2 hours and if we are lucky 2 ½ hours!  Well, today in the car we barely got 1 hour in.  To entertain them, I popped open my laptop and placed their favorite Dora the Explorer DVD in to help pass time.  We made it to our half way point where we planned to stop and stay the night.  Everything was going really well up to this point.  We get to the hotel check in and start to unload everyone.  This is when Parker (our golden retriever) goes crazy.  I don’t know if it was excitement, anxiousness, nerves or what!  Once we get to our room, the girls turn into two little energizer bunnies!  You name it they are into.  The next three hours were quite interesting to say the least.   I won’t go into the details because it was so crazy I care not to remember every detail of it.  Needless to say I’m happy to say our first night of our Christmas vacation has come to an end and we are half way through to our final destination.  I’m only hoping tomorrow’s road trip goes ok.  I know one thing… I will be happy to get there and get settled in.

Banana Pumpkin Muffins

Print Recipe

1 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

¼ canola oil

1 ½ cups sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp baking soda

½ cup buttermilk

1 ½ cups ripe banana, mashed

½ cup pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a mini muffin tin or two regular muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix together the sugar, applesauce and oil on low speed until incorporated.  Mix in eggs and vanilla.

In a small bowl, mix the buttermilk and baking soda together and let sit for a minute. 

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredient into the mixing bowl, on low speed.  You will be beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Add half of the buttermilk mixture followed by another 1/3 of dry.  Finish with mixing in the remaining buttermilk mixture and the remaining dry ingredients.  Mix until incorporated.

Stir in mashed banana and pumpkin. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute the batter into the muffin tins.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Update: We made it to Charleston!!  We are here and settled.  Sorry for the delay but I had to run and get a wireless card no service at in-laws!!

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My husband loves Oreo’s so when I was looking through Martha’s Holiday Sweets magazine and knew I had to try this recipe.  I changed her recipe a little for the filling because the filling was too sweet and took away from the chocolate cookie. The dough is really sticky so please be patient with it as your rolling it out.  Trust me, I was really arguing with my dough and in the end we worked it out.  I also tried two different fillings, the traditional vanilla and a peanut butter filling.  I really liked the peanut butter version…..yummy!  I think everyone in the house liked those too because those were quick to go.  Another great thing about having my parents here to visit is they help in eating the sweets.  These were delicious cookies and if you get to try them, which I highly recommend, enjoy!

I hope everyone is getting ready for the holidays.  As my last post mentioned I was pretty stressed with my to-do list.  The stress was knocked up a few levels when my husband and I decided to head to Charleston to visit his family for the holidays.  Not only that but we are driving with two 2 year olds, a dog, and luggage.  Wish us luck as we make our adventure!  We are looking forward to seeing everyone though.  That’s another thing, I may be missing from action for a little bit but I promise I’ll be back with more treats for everyone.

Happy Holidays everyone!!

 

Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches

Adapted from Martha Stewart 2009 Holiday Sweets Magazine
For Cookies:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
 
Line baking sheets with parchment paper; lightly coat with cooking spray.  Whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt.  With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until pale and fluffy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture, beat until combine.  Divide dough in half; form into disks, and wrap in plastic.  The dough will be very sticky.  Chill until firm, at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.  Dough can also be frozen up to 2 months; thaw in refrigerator before using.
 
Working with one disk at a time; roll out dough to a 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface.  Using a 1-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out shapes, transferring to prepared sheets (1 inch apart) as you work.  Chill in freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.  Brush off excess flour.  Gather togther scraps; roll, chill, and cut out more shapes.
 
Preheat oven to 325.  Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are firm, about 12 to 14 minutes.  Transfer cookies, on parchment, to a wire rack to cool completely.
 
Spread a pipe a small amount of filling on half the cookies.  Top with remaining cookies; gently press down to spread filling to edges.  Assembled cookies can be refrigerated up to 2 days in an airtight container.
 
For Vanilla Filling:
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
 
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until smooth.  Add confectioners’ sugar, and beat until light and fluffy.  Use immediately.
 
For Peanut Butter Filling:
Mix as above, but omit the vanilla extract.  Beat in 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter and 1 Tbsp milk into filling.

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12 days to Christmas!!  12 more days left to prepare for Christmas!!  Are you ready??  I have to say that I’m not even close to being ready!  The reason being is because I have not bought one present yet!!  Not a one!  When thinking about this I go into panic and stress mode.  I will try not to get myself so worked up but I will probably be spending the afternoon shopping on the internet.  It’s doesn’t help that it’s in the 80’s in South Florida. This may be playing a part in why I can’t get into the groove of Christmas.  While everyone else is experience really cold weather right now we are dressed in shorts in t-shirts.  I guess there are pros and cons of living in a mild climate but this time of the weather is when I miss the cold weather.  My parents have been visiting since Thursday (which is one of the reasons why I haven’t posted…sorry) and they have to check their flight out because Atlanta might have a chance of flurries!!  Crazy! 

To help me get into the spirit of everything and to also satisfy my dad and husbands sweet tooth I made gingerbread cookies this weekend.  I have to say the gingerbread cookies are great by themselves or with the filling.  The original recipe I tried for the filling was a little too sweet so I reduced the sugar and they came out a lot better.  The recipe below reflects my changes and my recommendations.  The gingerbread cookies are soft and chewy which is how I prefer my gingerbread cookies.  Also on the cookies I made the mistake of making them too big and they ended up spreading and getting really big.  Since they were so big and to avoid making them again I used a biscuit cutter to make them smaller.  I advised below to drop about 1 tsp sized cookies and this should help you to avoid my mistake.  As you can tell I had a lot of distractions while making these, hence the “mistakes”.  I had the girls, the dog, grandma, and grandpa all running and going crazy inside the house while I was trying to make these.  The kitchen so happen to be the place of choice for their fun.

I have also included that these are a great option to package up in a tin and tie a bow on top and give as a gift.  Maybe I should use this idea for someone….one down so more to go. 

Ok stress level rising again.  I’m going to take a deep breath and start my list and know that in the end everything will be ok.

Good luck everyone as you finish your last minute Christmas preparations!!

 

Gingerbread Cookie Sandwiches

Print Recipe

For Cookies:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

1 stick plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

¼ cup unsulfured molasses

For Filling:

6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

1 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position racks in the upper and lower thirds.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

To Make Cookies:

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the egg and molasses.  Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until well incorporated, scraping down the sides.  Drop tbsp size dough onto the baking sheets, 3 inches apart.  Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes, until risen and fallen and slightly firm; shift the sheets halfway through for even baking.  Let cool slightly then transfer the parchment paper to racks to cool completely.

 

To Make Filling:

In the bowl of a electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the milk until well combined.

Arrange the cookies in pairs on a large working surface and spoon or pipe onto the flat side of half of the cookie with filling.  Place the other cookie flat side down on top of cookie with filling and press down slightly until filling spreads to the edges. 

Sandwich cookies can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to a week.

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Muffins, muffins, muffins!!  That’s the 4th holiday gift idea!  What a great thing to have in your pantry when you’re in the mood for muffins or like the pancakes need a quick breakfast idea.  The mix is easy to make and again I have combined whole wheat with regular all-purpose to get the whole grains in there.  I have also made this mix with using white whole wheat flour and whole wheat.  You do what you prefer.  For the girls I like knowing they are getting some of those whole grains in their diet.  Along with the recipe for the muffin mix I’ve included a recipe for Lemon Blueberry Muffins and Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins.  There are so many other ideas you can do with this muffin mix which makes it so great.

For the packaging, I used the same white bag as I used for the pancake mix from My Own Labels.  The label is also the same one I used for the Cinnamon Sugar Pecans.  The labels are again so easy to use because Paper Source includes the template so all you have to do is choose the font you want and test it out.  Easy!

Happy Holidays everyone and I hope you have found some of these gift ideas inspirational.  There is one more to go so stay tune!

 

Homemade Muffin Mix

Print Recipe

3 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
 
Whisk together all ingredients and store in an airtight container.
Lemon Blueberry Muffins
 
2 2/3 cups muffin mix
1/4 canola oil
1/4 unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk or soy milk
Zest of one lemon
3/4 cup frozen blueberries
 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a mini or regular muffin pan with non-stick spray.
 
Whisk together in a medium bowl the oil, applesauce, eggs, vanilla, and milk.  Mix the muffin mix into the wet ingredient and mix until well combined.  Fold in lemon zest and blueberries.
Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean.
Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins
 
2 2/3 cups muffin mix
1/4 canola oil
1/4 unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk or soy milk
1/2 – 3/4 tsp espresso powder
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a mini or regular muffin pan with non-stick spray.
 
Whisk together in a medium bowl the oil, applesauce, eggs, vanilla, and milk.  Mix the muffin mix into the wet ingredient and mix until well combined.  Fold in mini chocolate chips and espresso powder.
Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in muffin comes out clean.

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